A joint forum of central trade unions on Monday began a two-day countrywide strike against the policies of the central government, reported PTI.

The joint forum comprises 10 trade unions, including the Indian National Trade Union Congress, the All India Trade Union Congress, the Centre of Indian Trade Unions, the All India United Trade Union Centre and the United Trade Union Congress.

All Indian Trade Union Congress General Secretary Amarjeet Kaur told the news agency that banks and insurance sectors have been impacted across the country, while steel and oil sectors were partially hit due to the strike.

Kaur said that the entire coal mining area in Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh was also impacted.

She added that the call for the nationwide strike has received good good response in industrial areas of Rajasthan, Karnataka, West Bengal, Delhi, Assam, Telangana, Kerala, Haryana, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Punjab, Goa and Odisha.

Many branches of public sector banks are closed in eastern India, said All India Bank Employees’ Association Venkatachalam General Secretary CH Venkatachalam, according to NDTV. He said that in other regions, banks are open, but services have been disrupted as many employees are taking part in the protests.

The strike has also impacted essential services related to others sectors, including transportation, railways and electricity in some parts of the country.

In Tamil Nadu, only 33% of government-run buses were operating on Monday, according to The Indian Express. In Chennai, only 318 out of 3,175 buses run by the Metropolitan Transport Corporation were running.

In Delhi, many factories remained open as workers feared of being dismissed from their jobs for participating in the strike.

Meanwhile, Communist Party of India (Marxist) MP Bikashranjan Bhattacharya and Communist Party of India MP Binoy Viswam gave suspension of business notices in the Rajya Sabha to discuss the strike, ANI reported.

Viswam said that the strike had been called by workers “to protest against the corporatisation and privatisation policies of the Central government.”

Demands of the trade unions

The unions have asked the central government to scrap proposed changes in labour laws, privatisation and the National Monetisation Pipeline. They are also seeking increased allocation of wages under Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Act and regularisation of contract workers.

Under the National Monetisation Pipeline, the government plans to raise Rs 6 lakh crore till 2025 by leasing out state-owned strategic assets in sectors such as power, road and railways to private entities.

Workers from various sectors, including banking, steel, oil, telecom, coal, postal, income tax, copper, and insurance are participating in the strike, reported NDTV. The bank unions are protesting against the government’s decision to privatise public sector banks.

Bank employees are also demanding speedy recovery of bad loans, higher deposit rates by the lenders, lower service charges on customers as well as restoration of old pension scheme for the staff.

Railway and defence sector unions will carry out mass mobilisation in support of the strike at several places, the joint forum said.

Kaur said that strike is expected to hit the rural areas of the country too, where informal workers from farming and other sectors will join the protest.

In a statement, the forum said that workers of transport, roadways and electricity departments have also decided to join the strike even as the Essential Services Maintenance Act is likely to be imposed in Haryana and Chandigarh.

The Act prohibits strikes by employees engaged in services that could be impact the normal life of the country’s citizens.

Meanwhile on Sunday, the Union power ministry issued an advisory, asking power utility companies to ensure that supply is not interrupted and the electricity grids function normally, reported the Hindustan Times.

Power ministry Director Arun Kumar Garg also advised the companies to schedule shutdown activities planned for Monday and Tuesday to later dates.

On March 26, the ministry had asked states to take action against imported coal-based power plants if they fail to maintain adequate stocks.