Country’s financial sector was crippled and transport hit as large parts of the country ground to a halt yesterday in response to trade unions calling for a two-day strike to demand concrete measures to check inflation, ensure jobs and enforce labour laws.
Day one of the nation-wide protest saw trains stopped in some places like Bihar and roads blocked elsewhere but it was all mostly peaceful, with the exception of violence in Uttar Pradesh’s Noida and Greater Noida areas, close to the national capital, where mobs attacked factories and set fire to vehicles. In Ambala, a Haryana Roadways employee was killed accidentally when he came under the wheels of a bus as authorities tried to forcibly ply services.
Bank 100% bandh
The banking sector was the worst hit in the strike called by 11 major trade unions including the ruling Congress’ Indian Trade Union Congress (INTUC). The strike impacted normal life across wide swathes of India. Around 10 lakh bankers struck work, affecting the clearance of around 40 lakh cheques valued around Rs 26,000 crore, estimated CH Venkatachalam, general secretary of the All India Bank Employees Association.
Commuters had a tough time in the national capital with cabs and autos off the roads, leaving them with no option but to either miss work or pack into metro trains and buses. And that was how it was in many parts of the country.
The shutdown was pretty much total in Kerala, where the Left is not in power but has significant influence, and in Left ruled Tripura. Most markets, shops and business establishments, government offices, educational institutions, banks and financial institutions were shut. Barring private vehicles, public transport remained off roads.
Life was disrupted elsewhere too. Amongst the most affected were students. In Bihar, the government has postponed the Class 12 examination scheduled for February 20 and 21 in view of the strike.
And while the strike organisers looked ahead at day two, analysts totted up the losses. According to industry body Assocham, which had Tuesday urged central trade unions to withdraw the trike, the economy would lose Rs 15,000-20,000 crore due to the disruption.
“The national economy, battling a slowdown, can ill-afford this situation” Assocham president Rajkumar Dhoot said.
Charter of demands
It includes concrete measures for containing inflation, steps for employment generation, universal social security and making the minimum wage
Rs 10,000 per month along with daily allowance.