Kochi: The two-day national strike by trade unions protesting against the economic and ‘anti-worker’ policies of the Union government has turned into a full-fledged hartal in Kerala despite the assurances given by the union leaders that nobody will be compelled to join the strike.
In Manjeri, the strike supporters scuffled with shopkeepers who opened the shops, while public transport services in most places were severely affected.
The train services were hit badly as strikers squatted on railway tracks in many parts of the state with many trains suffering delays and some cancelled.
“The Venad Express was partially cancelled between Ernakulam and Shoranur as an emergency step on Tuesday. At least three trains, including the Thiruvan-anthapruam-Tiruchirappali Intercity Express, were rescheduled,” said a railway spokesperson. The Ernakulam-Kayamkulam and Kayamkulam-Ernakulam passenger trains were cancelled. The Janashatabdi Express from Kozhikode to Thiruvanathapuram was delayed by three hours.
The protesters squatted on railway tracks in Thiruvananthapuram early on Tuesday. The Venad Express, scheduled to leave at 5 am finally left Thiruvananthapuram Central at 6.30 am. The Janshatabdi Express and the Raptisagar Express too were an hour behind schedule.
Though union leaders had repeatedly said that they would not force the closure of shops and business establishments, in most places shops were shut due to the pressure mounted by the supporters of the strike. The lack of public transport also forced some of the traders to keep the shutters down due to lack of business. The KSRTC cancelled most schedules and private buses, taxis and autos stayed away from the road hitting the normal life in the city.
In Kochi, most shops in Broadway market remained open. District collector Mohammad Y. Saffiulla walked from Convent Junction to the Market Road and Broadway to study the situation. The collector has been advocating 2019 as the year of change for Ernakulam with shops bidding goodbye to the culture of closure on hartals and strikes. The Lulu shopping mall remained open though the footfall was lower compared to normal days.
In Thiruvananathapuram, most shops remained closed while in Kottayam shops and other commercial establishments opened and no incidents of violence were reported in the district.
The attendance in the secretariat was thin with fewer than 100 out of 5,000-odd staff reporting for duty. The chief minister, ministers and higher officials did not go to the office. The strike leaders had blocked the main road in front of the secretariat by erecting a pandal on one half of the road.
The other government offices also recorded minimum attendance and in many places offices were closed as no staff reported for duty. The attendance was around 10 to 20 percent in the offices.
The attendance in public sector undertakings such as BPCL-Kochi Refinery, Cochin Shipyard, Cochin Port Trust, Cochin Export Processing Zone and industrial areas in Kalamasserry–Eloor region in Ernakulam was thin. The IT services sector was largely immune to the strike with attendance in Technopark in Thiruvananthauram and Infopark in Kochi remaining at normal levels.
Arrangements were made by companies in Technopark and Infopark to ferry the staff members while those who found it difficult to reach the workplace were given the work-from-home option....