A nation-wide strike called by the central trade unions over the BJP government's proposed changes in labour laws could paralyse essential services, including transport and banking, across the country today.
All major trade unions except the BJP-backed Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) are going ahead with the one-day nationwide strike, even as the government appealed to them for calling off the agitation.
The National Front of Indian Trade Unions (NFITU) will also stay out of the industrial action.
The 10 central trade unions, which are spearheading the agitation, have a combined membership of 150 million workers covering almost all sectors, including banking and insurance, transport etc – both in the public and private sectors – as also several associations representing informal sector workers.
Labour minister Bandaru Dattatreya, however, said he expects the impact to be minimal.
"I don't think essential services will be affected by the strike. I feel that the impact will not be much. I appeal them to call off strike in the interest of workers and nation," Dattatreya told reporters on Tuesday.
"The BMS and NFITU are not in the strike. Besides there are 2-4 organisations (unions) which are neutral," Dattatreya added.
He, however, did not reveal the names of the 'neutral' trade unions.
The union leaders, however, said the strike will affect the functioning of essential services like banking, transport and supply of power, gas and oil.
The BMS countered this claim, stating that power, oil and gas supplies will not be affected as a large number of public sector workers in these areas would stay out of the agitation.
As many as 12 central trade unions had given this strike call over a 12-points charter of demands, including withdrawal of the proposed changes in the labour laws and stopping the disinvestment and privatisation of PSUs.
The ten central unions decided to go ahead with the strike after talks with a group of senior ministers last week failed to yield desired results. The BMS, however, pulled out saying the government needed to be given time to fulfill its promises on the basic demands. NFITU also decided to stay out.
The government, meanwhile, said talks with trade unions will continue irrespective of their decision to go ahead with the strike.
"We don't want any confrontation with trade unions. The workers' rights and interests are supreme to us. We will continue talks with trade unions even after tomorrow's strike," Dattatreya said.