Nationwide stir confined to select states and pockets
08 January 2020
The nationwide strike by scores of trade unions had little impact on daily lives in most parts of the country, rather confining the show to select pockets like Kerala where the Left government is in power.
In Maharashtra, life was as usual with shops and offices remaining open and transport as usual. Banking services too were near normal.
The strike called by all major trade unions except the BMS against the government’s ‘anti-worker’ policies and the recently enacted Citizenship Amendment Act also turned out to be largely peaceful except in parts of Kerala.
By noon, workers in states like Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana took to the streets in protest.
The main demand, however, is that the government drop proposed labour reforms. The labour code that was approved in November 2018 derecognises labour unions.
There is also a demand for equal wages for equal work of contract workers and regular workers. They are also demanding measures that will boost employment and generate more job opportunities. They also want a minimum wage that is not less than Rs 18,000 a month.
Bank unions joined the stir demanding that the government halt merger of public sector banks that the finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced in 2019. Workers in PSUs want disinvestment of central and state PSUs to be stopped as well. Workers are also opposing FDI in insurance, railways and defence.
They also want universal social security cover. The labour code on social security does not include 93 per cent of the workforce in the unorganised sector.
Other demands also include repealing the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), National Register of Citizens (NRC) and National Population Register (NPR).
In Kerala, several shops in many cities have remained shut due to the bandh. Transport services too have been affected. Public transport services were suspended while private buses did not operate fearing vandalism
Though largely peaceful, there have been reports of sporadic violence in some places such as Madikeri town in Kodagu district of Karnataka where stones were pelted at a KSRTC bus.
A similar incident also took place in West Bengal where a bus was vandalised. Even though West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee did not support the strike, there were some instances of violence, like the Rail Roko protest in North 24 Parganas district where crude oil bombs were found. There have also been reports of bombs being hurled towards police in Malda, where the police too reportedly fired rubber bullets and teargas shells.
Apart from that, protesters were detained in some parts of the country.
In Andhra Pradesh, police arrested leaders of the Left parties and trade unions as they tried to stop state-owned buses and staged road blockade on Wednesday as part of the nation-wide shutdown.
Protesters were arrested in Vijayawada, Guntur, Ongole, Visakhapatnam, Kadapa and other towns when they tried to stop buses of the Road Transport Corporation (RTC) from coming out of the depots.
In Chennai too, some protesters who trying to block roads were detained.