The Bharat Bandh (India-wide strike) on Wednesday that 10 trade unions had called for saw services like banking, transport and other services severely affected. About 25 crore workers are part of this strike. The trade unions allege the bandh is a reflection of employees’ resentment against the central government’s economic policies, privatisation of railways and of 49 defence production units and forced merger of banks.
The winter chill and rains of Delhi hampered the strike. Markets in the capital are open like normal days and there are normal activities on the streets. Rajesh Kashyap, a member of the State Committee in the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), said, “Today people have gathered less than expected due to rain. In Mangolpuri Phase-2 Industrial Area, there is a plan to unite everyone to reach Phase-1 and Udyog Nagar of Nangloi.”
Employees of Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) organised protests in Mumbai against the central government’s move to disinvest the company. The Shiv Sena extended its support to Bharat Bandh by trade unions. It targeted the central government for its policies and decisions.
In West Bengal, there were clashes between activists of Trinamool Congress (TMC) and Students Federation of India (SFI) during the Bharat Bandh in Bardhaman. A video showing some people beating a young man surfaced from this town, and then a rival crowd arrived, which led to a street-side brawl.
Protesters in West Bengal blocked the railway tracks at Howrah. In Kanchrapara of North 24 Parganas in West Bengal, protesters blocked the railway tracks too. Train passengers are still stranded.
Observing the Bharat Bandh in Cooch Behar, West Bengal, some miscreants vandalised a bus and fled.
A strange image arrived from Siliguri where the driver of a North Bengal State Transport Corporation (NBSTC) bus wore a helmet to avoid getting hurt by bandh supporters.
Candidates who had to appear for the JEE Mains 2020 exam faced difficulties due to the Bharat Bandh in Odisha. Due to the bandh, the candidates had reached the centre before dawn and were still hassled.
Tamil Nadu is seeing the effect of the Bharat Bandh. Unions demonstrated on Mount Road in Chennai. People were seen shouting slogans with flags in their hands.
Trade unions took out a joint march in Kochi, Kerala amid protests by the Bharat Bandh, while protesters in Madikeri, Karnataka vandalized a bus of the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC). Nearly 2,000 app-based cab drivers are supporting the National Trade Union strike near Hyderabad Airport.
Nobel laureate and biophysicist Michael Levitt was stranded in a houseboat in Alappuzha district of Kerala on 8 January after strikers stopped the boat during its cruise.
Encouraging the disruption, former INC president Rahul Gandhi attacked the Narendra Modi government by tweeting, “The Modi-Shah Govt’s anti-people, anti-labour policies have created catastrophic unemployment & are weakening our PSUs to justify their sale to Modi’s crony capitalist friends. Today, over 25 crore workers have called for #BharatBandh2020 in protest. I salute them.”
Bharat Bandh impacts banking services
The strike affected many activities, including depositing and withdrawing of cash in public bank branches in many places in the country. Most of the banks have already told their customers about the strike and the impact it will have on banking services. Organisations of bank employees AIBEA, AIBOA, BEFI, INBEF, INBOC and Bank Staff Force Federation had expressed their willingness to support and participate in the strike.
All India Bank Employees Union (AIBEA) general secretary CH Venkatachalam said that the bank employees were supporting the call for this nationwide strike. “We oppose the government’s policies on bank mergers, privatisation, fee hikes and other salary-related issues,” he said. The All India Reserve Bank Employees Association (AIRBEA) and All India Reserve Bank Workers Federation (AIRBWF) and some insurance unions have also supported the strike.
All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) general secretary Amarjit Kaur said that members of 10 central trade unions along with various regional federations were participating in this nationwide strike. The central unions include the AITUC, INTUC, CITU, AICCTU, SEVA and LPF. “We are demonstrating against inflation, sale of public companies, railways, defence, coal and other sectors including 100% FDI and codification of 44 labour laws,” she said.
Kaur said the other demands of the unions included a minimum pension of Rs 6,000 for all, a minimum support price (MSP) for farmers and an adequate supply of ration to the people. She claimed that the rains in Delhi could not affect the movement. Workers will take out a procession in the industrial areas of the state and according to the plan, the workers will gather on the ITO and then take out the procession from here.
Kaur said, “We are getting news from across the country. BHEL employees have gone on strike. Oil union is on strike. There is a shutdown in Northeast, Odisha, Puducherry, Kerala and Maharashtra.”