An estimated 25 crore workers participated in a nationwide strike called by 10 central trade unions on Thursday against the central government’s new farm and labour laws, reported PTI.
The workers protested against the “anti-people, anti-worker, anti-national and destructive policies of the BJP government led by Modi”, according to Times Now.
The bandh was imposed as part of a declaration adopted by several trade unions, including the National Trade Union Congress, All India Trade Union Congress, Hind Mazdoor Sabha, Centre of Indian Trade Unions, All India United Trade Union Centre, Trade Union Co-ordination Centre, Self-Employed Women’s Association, All India Central Council of Trade Unions, Labour Progressive Federation and United Trade Union Congress.
Heavy security was seen at the Jantar Mantar in Delhi, where members of the All India United Trade Union Centre staged a protest.
The strike called by the trade unions hit normal life in Kerala as government offices, banks and businesses remained closed, according to PTI. Private buses, auto rickshaws and taxis also stayed off the roads. The movement of vehicles was also disrupted in Odisha’s Bhubaneswar, Rourkela, Rayagada, and Gunupur areas, India Today reported.
Farmers, domestic helpers, construction workers, beedi sellers, hawkers, vendors, agricultural workers, self-employed citizens in rural and urban areas, auto and taxi drivers, railway, defence employees also participated in the strike, according to the Hindustan Times.
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-affiliated Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh did not participate in the strike.
What are the demands?
- The trade unions have asked the Centre to provide 200 days’ work in a year at enhanced wages under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) scheme.
- The withdrawal of anti-farmer laws and anti-worker labour codes, “stop privatisation of public sector, including the financial sector, and stop corporatisation of government-run manufacturing and service entities like railways, ordnance factories, ports”.
- The protestors are demanding cash transfer of Rs 7,500 per month to all non-income tax paying families, and 10 kg free ration per person per month to the poor.
- The scrapping of the National Pension System, and the restoration of the earlier pension scheme with improvement in EPS-95 (Employees’ Pension Scheme-1995 run by the retirement fund body Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation).
Banking services affected
Banking operations were affected as the All India Bank Employees’ Association also participated in the one-day strike. Most banks, barring the State Bank of India and the Indian Overseas Bank, are members of the AIBEA.
“Employees of 12 public sector banks, nine private banks, nine foreign banks, all Regional Rural Banks and most of the Cooperative Banks will be participating in the strike,” the association’s General Secretary CH Venkatachalam had said on Wednesday.
The bank union had said it would be protesting against bank privatisation, outsourcing, contract system, adequate recruitment. It also demand stern action against big corporate defaulters.
“The Lok Sabha in its recently held session has passed three new labour enactments by dismantling existing 27 enactments in the name of ‘Ease of Business’, which are purely in the interest of corporates,” the union said in a release, according to Times Now. “In the process, 75% of workers are being pushed out of the orbits of labour laws since they will have no legal protection under the new enactment.”
Rail services affected in West Bengal
In West Bengal, visuals by ANI showed members of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Congress blocking railway tracks in Jadavpur.
The trade unions in the state are hopeful of a successful strike in key sectors like jute, port, tea, coal and banking.
The Indian National Trinamool Trade Union Congress is also supporting the bandh call. Notably, Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress has not supported the strike, urging employees to resume their services.
On November 23, Left and Congress members had staged a protest march in Kolkata in support of the Bharat Bandh. The protestors had burnt effigies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah.
Left Front Chairman Biman Bose, CPI(M) state Secretary Suryakanta Mishra, Congress MP Pradip Bhattacharya took part in the rally, which was held from Lenin statue at Esplanade to Hedua Park in north Kolkata.