Mixed response to trade unions strike
The 48-hour general strike called by the trade unions on February 20 and 21 has had little effect in West Bengal but in Kerala and New Delhi the strike hits normal life.
Commuters in the city on Wednesday faced hardships as a section of auto-rickshaws and taxis remained off the road in support of the two-day nationwide strike called by 11 trade unions.
School children and office goers suffered the most as most auto-rickshaw and taxi drivers either refused or overcharged. Passengers at major railway stations and bus stands remained stranded or had to shell out more to reach their destinations.
“I had to pay Rs 180 for a ride from Moti Bag to Central Secretariat to an auto driver. The fare for the stretch in a normal day is around Rs 80,” said Ajeet Singh, a government official.
Five major auto-rickshaw and taxi unions have announced that they will join the strike to demand a hike in auto and taxi fares.
Although Metro services were not affected by the strike, bus services were partially hit by the strike as a number of bus unions, including a section of Delhi Transport Corporation employees, have also extended support to the strike.
Long queues were seen at Metro stations and bus stands as they remained the only viable option for people to commute.
“I had to stand in the queue at INA Metro station for around 45 minutes as most people decided to take the metro following the strike. By the time I reached office, I was late by an hour,” said Shikha Tiwari who works at an airline company at Connaught Place.
To tackle the strike, Delhi government has cancelled leave of all DTC employees and asked senior officials of the corporation to be at bus depots from early morning to ensure a smooth running of the DTC bus service.
Delhi Transport Minister Ramakant Goswami had said that around 1,000 RTV (rural transport vehicles) and tourist buses will ply on DTC routes for the next two days.
“These buses have been allowed to ply on DTC routes under special service. The buses would display DTC route numbers and charge DTC fares,” he said.
PSU bank employees go on strike
Normal banking operations were hit on Wednesday as employees of public sector banks went on a two-day strike in response to a call given by central trade unions to press for wage hike in the backdrop of rising inflation.
The nation-wide strike call has been given by United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU), consisting of nine national level unions, including AIBEA, NCBE, BEFI, INBEF, NOBW and AIBOC.
Apprehending disruption in their normal banking operations, many banks had already informed their customers about the proposed strike.
Meanwhile, sources said, banks have taken steps to ensure that public do not face problems at least on the cash front during the strike period.
Banks have fed additional cash in ATMs to meet the cash needs of their customers.
Bank unions are pressing for early wage revision of employees, which they said is due from November 2012. They are also opposing banking sector reforms and any plan for merger of banks.
There are 26 public sector banks with employees strength of around 10 lakh.
In December 2012 also, four bank unions went on strike opposing amendments carried out in Banking Regulation Act and Banking Companies Act, enabling foreign equity in public sector banks.
The bank strike is part of a general strike call given by 11 central trade unions including Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) and All India United Trade Union Centre.
Little impact in West Bengal
There was little impact of the two-day strike called by central trade unions on the first day on Wednesday in West Bengal with situation being normal and peaceful across the state.
Shops and markets were mostly open in the metropolis.
Private buses and taxis were less, though state buses were present in large number on the roads, police sources said.
Barring blockades at Hasnabad and Diamond sections of the Eastern Railway, train services were normal in Howrah and Sealdah divisions, the sources said.
Flight schedule was also normal at the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport.
Commissioner of Kolkata Police Surajit Karpurakayastha was on the roads in the morning to review security.
“Everything is absolutely normal,” he said.
ADG (law and order) Banibrata Basu said no untoward incident was reported from anywhere.
The West Bengal government has issued a warning to employees against being absent during the strike.
The state government has also asked shops and markets to remain open or face administrative action, including cancellation of trade licence.
CITU leaders have criticised the state government for this saying that it was undemocratic and illegal.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has said that her administration would ensure that life was normal and there would be no shutdown in the state.
She has also said that the government would pay in case of damage caused during the strike.
Strike hits normal life in Kerala
The 48-hour nationwide strike called by central trade unions hit normal life across Kerala on Monday with workers from varied sectors, including transport and banking, staying away from work to protest the UPA government’s economic and labour policies.
Early reports said buses and taxis were off the roads and shops and restaurants remained closed. Train services were not affected.
The Congress-led UDF government has declared ‘dies non’ (no work, no pay) as pro-Left service and teachers unions are also striking work.
Security has been tightened and no violence has been reported from anywhere. Police have offered protection to those willing to work and public conveyances ready to ply, police sources said.
Emergency services like health care, milk supply and media have been exempted from the strike, AITUC leader Kanam Rajendran said.
The unions have put forward a charter of 10 demands such as urgent steps to control price rise, strict enforcement of labour laws in all places of work, social security net for workers in the unorganised sector, end to disinvestment in PSUs and raising minimum wage to Rs 10,000 a month.
Apart from unions owing allegiance to the Left, the pro-Congress INTUC and pro-BJP BMS are also participating in the strike.
However, pro-UDF government service and teachers unions have not joined the strike.
Two-day strike begins in AP
The nationwide strike called by Central Trade Unions in support of their various demands began in Andhra Pradesh with the personnel of various public sector organisations staying away from work.
The employees of various public sector banks began protest at the Bank Street at Koti here as part of the strike.
The leaders of the bank unions sit-out at the government’s alleged attempts to dilute the public sector banking system.
The other trade unions have also planned protests during the two-days of the strike.
In Vijayawada, the trade unions took out a rally and demanded that the government respond to their demands.
The staff of the Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation (APSRTC) have also joined the strike in different parts of the state.
The employees of the State-run miner Singareni Collieries Company Ltd (SCCL), spread in various Telangana districts, have also stayed away from the duties, reports reaching here said.
Normal life paralysed in Tripura
Syed Sajjad Ali adds
Normal life and business came to a standstill in Tripura as trade unions enforced two-day nationwide general strike commenced on Wednesday morning. The strike called by 11 trade unions evoked complete response across the state with business establishments and educational institutions remaining closed.
Government offices recorded very thin attendance while vehicular movement was off the road. No untoward incident reported from anywhere in the state.
The strikers organised picketing outside some government offices. Emergency services and all activities relating to assembly election were kept out of general strike.
The 48 hour bandh also affected functioning in ONGC in state. ONGC workers’ Union supported 10-point demands of the trade unions.
The workers’ union however informed that the staffs engaged in gas exploration and distribution units have joined duty. ONGC is providing gas to state’s thermal power projects and is partner of ambitious 726MW power plant at Palatana in south Tripura.
Keywords: general strike, 48-hour bandh, trade unions strike, two-day strike
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