Hyderabad/Chennai /Thiruvananthapuram/Mumbai/Kolkata: The nationwide strike called by central trade unions on Friday hit normal life in Telangana and Kerala, but it did not affect Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Maharashtra where transport services and other businesses ran without any hindrances.
The strike was to protest against "anti-worker" changes in labour laws and the Centre's "indifference" to their demands for better wages.
Union Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya had on Thursday blamed the previous UPA government for the issues faced by the workers and said the present government "doesn't want a confrontation with labour unions" and rather needs their cooperation and support.
He had conceded banking and insurance sectors are likely to be impacted more due to the strike on Friday, while adding that out of 12 demands of the trade unions, eight are related to the labour department and seven of them have been agreed to.
Banking operations came to standstill in Telangana as over 15,000 employees of various banks participated in the general strike. All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEAP) Joint Secretary B S Rambabu said demonstrations will be held in all the district headquarters along with other trade unions. "Though branches will be open, there is no business taking place in PSU banks. Clearing will also be impacted. However, there will not be any problem with regard to ATMs functioning," Rambabu said.
Most of the buses run by Telangana State Road Transport Organisation are kept off the roads, a senior official said.
As many as two lakh state government employees (gazetted, non-gazetted and class 4 employees) are supporting the strike, Telangana Gazetted officers Association General Secretary A Satyanarayana said. "We will not directly participate in the strike, but wear black badges and attend duties," Satyanarayana said.
According to him, Revenue department officials are not participating in the strike as they are busy in reorganisation of districts. Most of the industrial parks witnessed thin attendance today.
In Left-ruled Kerala, public transport vehicles stayed off the roads, and shops and business establishments downed their shutters. Autorickshaws, taxis, Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) and private buses are not plying on roads across the state with the workers of various unions taking part in the strike.
Major roads wore a deserted look in the state capital where hundreds of employees of ISRO units, including Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), could not reach their offices as the strike supporters laid a siege of an ISRO bus bay here.
Train passengers had a tough time as they had to walk to their homes after alighting at the railway station here. Police helped patients coming to the Regional Cancer centre here by arranging transport.
All major unions, barring RSS-associated BMS (Bhartiya Mazdoor Sangh), have joined the strike, terming as "completely inadequate" the Central government's assurances to look into their demands and the recent announcements for two-year bonus and hike in minimum wage.
This is the first major strike in Kerala after the CPI(M) led LDF government came to power in May this year. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has courted controversy after expressing support to the strike on Facebook with BJP hitting out against him.
Three convoys of buses, which were to carry employees from different localities, could not leave as strike supporters laid siege of the bus bay of ISRO units at Pattom.
About 6,000 odd employees of the VSSC in Thumba, ISRO Inertial Systems unit, a R&D unit of ISRO at Vattiyoorkavu, Liquid Propulsion systems centre (LPSC) and Indian Institute of Space Science Engineering college at Valliamala have been held up, sources said.
The union leaders led by former CPI(M) MLA, V Sivankutty staged a dharna in front of the bus bay this morning preventing employees from getting into the buses. "Not a single bus has left the Pattom station since 7 am on Friday morning. We are not sure when the convoys will ply," a VSSC official said.
In the past 15-20 years, we were never affected due to strikes as employees used to get transport arrangements, the official said.
Some vehicles of Technopark employees were also blocked. In the Apollo Tyres Perambra unit, BMS workers came for work for the 6 am shift and striking workers tried to prevent them. However, police intervened and allowed them to enter the unit. Employees of the Fertilisers and Chemicals Travancore (FACT) were also prevented at Kochi, police said.
The suburban trains, autorickshaws, taxis and city buses in Maharashtra continued to operate normally, without affecting the daily schedule of lakhs of commuters in Mumbai and suburbs.
A CPM state unit leader said that there were instances of 'rasta roko' (block roads) at various places in rural Maharashtra. "Our activists staged 'rasta roko' agitation in Thane and Nashik districts," CPM leader Ashok Dhawle said.
He claimed that there was an 'overwhelming' response to the stir in the industrial belts of Maharashtra. Several government employees also stayed away from work, he said.
All India Banks Employees Association general secretary Vishwas Utagi said entire financial sector will get paralysed on Friday with all banks, except SBI, being on strike. The LIC, Nabard, GIC among others are also participating in the strike, he added.
Bus and train services operated as usual in Tamil Nadu while shops and business establishments remained open. Educational institutions are functioning normally. The ruling AIADMK's labour wing is not participating in the strike.
The striking union members staged demonstrations at various places raising slogans in support of their demands. A Madurai report said the strike did not affect normalcy in most parts of southern districts of the state. However, inter-state buses to Kerala were stopped at the border towns of Nagercoil and Theni.
Central government government offices wore a deserted look with the employees joining the strike while a section of state government employees, especially in the revenue department, are also participating in the strike, the report said.
Shops in most places were open and autorickshaws were seen plying as usual. Police have been deployed for providing security to PSUs and government offices to prevent any untoward incident.
Officials said essential services were maintained and buses were operated by members of 'Anna Thozhirsanga Peravai', the AIADMK backed trade union. Private buses were off the road in Tiruvarur district.
More than 50,000 police personnel have been deployed in southern districts, police said adding so far no untoward incident had been reported.
Government buses in West Bengal and other private vehicles were operating normally on the roads, officials said. Train services at Sealdah and Howrah sections, and Metro Rail services were also as usual. However, the rush of passengers was less. "So far, there have been no major incidents, except a few small incidents in some districts," said a senior police official.
In Kolkata, seven persons were arrested for trying to enforce the strike forcefully. CITU-led Left trade unions claimed that the strike is going on peacefully and accused Trinamool Congress (TMC) of trying to incite violence at some places. "The people of the state have willingly participated in the strike. In most of the places it is peaceful but in certain areas TMC is using its muscle power to break the strike," CITU State President Shyamal Chakraborty said.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday said while leaving for Italy, "The strike will be a complete failure in the state. I will be monitoring the entire work personally. Even though I will be out of the state but I will monitor the situation. My appeal to everybody is to reject the strike for the development of the state."
The ruling TMC, which is opposing the strike, is celebrating Singur Divas throughout the state in order to counter the strike on Friday. "The people of Bengal have already rejected this obsolete strike culture. People are busy celebrating Singur Divas," TMC Secretary General Partha Chatterjee said. Banerjee on Thursday said there will be no 'bandh' in the state and warned of strong action against those who disrupt public life.
Banerjee said her government is also planning to introduce a new law under which those who ransack and damage property during 'bandh' will have to pay compensation.
The Left Trade unions, however, challenged the government to foil the strike and accused TMC of planning to incite violence in the state in the garb of observing 'Singur Divas'.
In Odisha, protesters came on roads and railway tracks affecting the traffic movement all over the state. Train services were affected as trade union activists staged rail roko by holding sit-in on tracks at many places including Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Berhampur, Sambalpur, Bhadrak, Balasore, Jaleswar, Keonjhargarh and Rayagada, police said.
Over two dozen passenger and express trains were delayed at different railway stations as the rail roko continued for some time, they said adding goods trains were also stranded at several places.
Vehicular movement came to a halt with buses, trucks, auto-rickshaws and other vehicles keeping off the roads with supporters of the strike staging road blockade at many places including highways by burning tyres and putting hurdles, police said.
Many passengers were seen stranded at bus stands and railway stations at many places. While shops and other business establishments downed their shutters, some educational institutions, banks and insurances offices remained closed. Government offices recorded thin attendance in several places as union activists staged picketing to enforce the strike.
In the state capital of Bhubaneswar, major roads wore a deserted look with vehicles refraining from plying though some two-wheelers were seen in some areas. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and other ministers went to the secretariat amidst tight security cover, they said.
The strike remained by and large peaceful with no untoward incident being reported from any part of the state, said a senior police official. The strike affected mining operations in most areas including Talcher, Angul, Bonai and Koira.
Work in Paradip port and industrial units in the port town remained largely unaffected as special arrangements had been made to ensure operations though reduced attendance was witnessed, sources said.
In Karnataka, while the state-run transport buses remained off the roads causing inconvenience to office-goers and those travelling to distant places, shops, establishments, markets and hotels functioned normally.
Though some auto and cab unions had announced their support for the bandh, their movement was by and large normal in Bengaluru. Metro services are also functioning normally.
Keeping safety of students in mind, authorities in various districts have declared holiday for school and college goers.
Police have made elaborate security arrangements in the state to avoid any untoward incident. In Bengaluru police personnel have been deployed across the city.
Thirty-six platoons of Karnataka State Reserve Police, 21 of City Armed Reserve and 270 Police patrol vehicles are deployed across Bengaluru, officials said.
Demonstrations are being held by trade unions across the state. At a march held in the city, protesters with banners marched from Town hall to Freedom Park here shouting slogans against government policies.
The unions have called the protest against the central government's "indifference" to their demands for better wages and facilities and "anti-worker" changes in labour laws.
Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh
Services including banking and public transport were hit in Haryana, Punjab and UT Chandigarh with employees of various government departments joining the strike.
Employees of departments like roadways, electricity, health, corporations held demonstrations at various places in Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh. At some places, employees claimed the district administration "forcefully" asked roadways employees to ply buses.
The government departments had already warned protesting employees to enforce 'no work no pay' policy and had set up control rooms to lodge complaint.
At prestigious health institution Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), various planned surgeries were today postponed in the wake of around 2,000nurses joining the nationwide strike call given by All India Government Nurses Federation.
Public transport services were hit in Punjab and Haryana with roadways employees participating in the strike call, causing inconvenience to passengers.
"There is a complete strike in Haryana as roadways buses are not plying, barring few ones at some places," Haryana Roadways Workers Union, General Secretary, Dharamveer Hooda said.
"Employees are protesting at all the 24 depots in the state," he said adding that the state roadways had fleet of 4,200 buses.
However, he accused Jind district administration of resorting to lathicharge at protesting roadways employees so as to resume bus services. "But we have not allowed to run the buses," he said.
Hooda also claimed the state police have taken 21 leaders including union's President Sarbat Singh Punia into the custody at odd hours in Fatehabad. "This is completely illegal and we will protest against the same at Fatehabad," said Hooda.
Haryana's Sarv Karamchari Sangh, President, Dharambir Phogat claimed government employees of almost all the departments including power, health, roadways, and corporations, boards, universities are participating in the strike.
"We have been demanding new appointments at regular basis, regularization of contractual employees, minimum wages of Rs 24,000 per month, implementation of labour laws etc," said Phogat.
A report from Hisar and Kaithal in Haryana said public transport remained paralysed, forcing passengers to use private vehicles to reach their destinations.
A large number of passengers could be seen stranded at Hisar, Hansi, Uklana , Barwala, Adampur and other bus stands. Almost all offices at mini secretariat here looked deserted as government employees did not join their duties.
A report from Phagwara in Punjab said while Punjab roadways buses were also off the road, PRTC buses were seen plying.
A staff member of Punjab Roadways said they will remain on strike from 10 am to 2 pm. Roadways buses were seen parked inside the main Bus stand opposite National highway-I.
Banking operations were also hit at public sector banks in Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh with bank employees participating in the nationwide strike.
Banking customers faced inconvenience as operations came to a halt in PSU banks even as employees held demonstrations at various places in both states.
"We are protesting against anti-labour and anti-banking reforms being brought by the government," said Punjab Bank Employees Federation Secretary Naresh Gaur.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson of PGIMER said planned surgeries at the health institute were postponed in view of strike by nurses. "But OPD and emergency services are normal at PGIMER," she said.
Around 2,000 nurses stayed away from their work following a strike call given by All India Government Nurses Federation.