'Bharat Bandh' proves effective only in Kerala, Karnataka

02 September 2016

A 'Bharat Bandh' called by 10 trade unions today has shut down Kerala and much of Karnataka, but in Delhi and Mumbai buses were running and essential services like power and water supply have not been affected.

Public sector banks were closed in parts of the country, but branches were seen open in Mumbai and elsewhere. Private banks were working in most states and customers could access ATMs.

Nurses and radiologists have separately announced an indefinite strike for better wages, but have said they will attend to emergency cases. A group of nurses protesting in Delhi were allegedly manhandled by police before being dragged into buses and detained.

The trade unions claim that 1.8 million workers are on strike today to protest against new labour and investment policies and to demand better pay.

In Delhi, public transport remained unaffected and State Bank of India did not adhere to the bandh unlike government banks in other states. In Mumbai, it was business as usual with suburban trains, autorickshaws, taxis and city buses operating normally.

Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has said her government will not allow offices or factories to close and that public transport will run as usual. Left parties have vowed to ensure that the strike is successful in the state.

In Left-ruled Kerala, government offices, schools and colleges were closed and all public transport is off the roads.

In Karnataka, the Congress government is supporting the strike and schools and colleges are closed. Public transport has been partially hit with very few state-run buses on the roads. In Bengaluru, auto rickshaws and taxis are running but are reportedly overcharging customers.

Workers of state-run Coal India Ltd are among those who are on strike today. Power plants have enough coal on hand to operate even if nothing is mined over the next 50 to 60 days, coal and power minister Piyush Goyal has said.

To persuade the unions to call off the strike, finance minister Arun Jaitley said on Tuesday that the government will release state employees' bonuses for the last two years, and increase minimum wages for unskilled labourers.

But the trade unions rejected the government appeal to call off the strike, saying it had failed to address their demands. Apart from demanding higher minimum wages, the unions object to the government loosening the norms for foreign investment in areas like insurance and defence and are also opposed to a plan to close loss-making state-run firms.

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