Around 18 lakh workers joined a nationwide strike on Friday to protest against what they called the government’s anti-labour and pro-corporate policies, according to the 10 central trade unions that called the bandh. The workers, many of whom are from the banking, transport, port, shipping and oil and gas sectors, claim the Bharatiya Janata Party-led central government has been indifferent to their demands for higher wages.
The trade unions claimed that 18 lakh workers have responded to their call, though initial reports had stated that up to 15 crore might join. In Delhi, nurses and radiologists announced an indefinite strike till their demand for better wages are fulfilled. According to an NDTV report, a group of protesting nurses was manhandled by the police, who allegedly dragged them into buses and detained them.
The West Bengal police arrested Siliguri Municipal Corporation Mayor Ashok Bhattacharya along with 15 other protestors, reported ANI. Clashes were reported from North 24 Parganas in West Bengal where workers belonging to the ruling Trinamool Congress party got into fights with Communist Party of India members. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said offices and factories will remain open, and public transport will run as usual.
While schools and colleges remained shut in Kerala and Karnataka, public transport was partially hit in Bangalore with fewer autorickshaws and taxis plying on roads. There have been reports of commuters being overcharged because of the strike.
The strike got lukewarm response in Mumbai with public transport running as usual. The Indian Railways has not participated in the strike, thus keeping the Mumbai local trains unaffected.
The trade unions had released a joint statement on Thursday saying, “In view of the utterly unresponsive and undemocratic attitude of the government, the CTUs view the announcements made by the Committee of Ministers as an eyewash and have decided to go ahead with the strike. Meagre raise in minimum wage to Rs 9,100 per month in central sphere is not binding on the states,” The Indian Express reported.
On Tuesday, the Centre said it had accepted an advisory board’s recommendations and hiked the minimum wage for semi-skilled non-agricultural workers to Rs 350 a day from Rs 246. However, the trade unions had dismissed this as an eyewash, saying “The announcement on daily wages means only status quo. No major demand has been accepted.”
The strike could cost the Indian economy up to Rs 25,000 crore, according to Financial Express.