15 Crore Workers on Strike Today, Critical Services Hit

bharat-bandh_650x400_71441175653NEW DELHI: About 15 crore workers are on a nationwide strike and essential services like banking and public transport have been hit in many places. There is major impact in West Bengal and cities like Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Thiruvananthapuram.
Rival parties clashed in many places, including capital Kolkata, in West Bengal, where unions enjoy significant clout. In Kolkata, women activists from the Left were seen being dragged by the police. Banks, shops, and many schools are closed and all public transport is off roads.
The bandh has also impacted Southern states. Around 3,500 government-run buses are not running in Hyderabad and public transport has also been hit in Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala. Schools and colleges are closed in Bengaluru.
Ten major trade unions have called ‘Bharat bandh’ over the government’s pro-business initiatives, after talks with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley broke down.
The unions are demanding that the government dump plans to sell off stake in state-run companies to boost the public purse and to shut down unproductive factories.
They are also opposed to the government’s proposed labour reforms expected to diminish the influence of trade unions and make the labour market more flexible.
Many banks have shut their doors for the day all over the country.
Long lines of commuters and school children were seen waiting at bus stops in many cities across the country, including national capital Delhi, while passengers were stranded at airports as taxis and rickshaws stayed off the streets.
Unions like Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), which is backed by the ruling BJP, and the National Front of Trade Unions are not participating in the strike.
PM Modi won a landslide election victory last May, promising a string of business-friendly reforms to attract foreign investment and revive the economy. But the opposition has blocked flagship tax and land reforms, aggravating investor concerns, while the unions are increasingly angry over the reforms.India’s economy grew by a slower than expected seven per cent in the first quarter of the financial year and experts say, reforms are needed to create jobs for millions of young people. Previous strikes have shut down cities and cost the Indian economy millions of dollars in lost production.
Meanwhile , West Bengal witnessed sporadic cases of violence in the first few hours of the nationwide strike called by Left-affiliated trade unions on Wednesday. Over 15 crore people from 10 trade unions are expected to join a nationwide one-day strike that is underway since morning.
In Murshidabad district’s Berhampore, Trinamool Congress supporters allegedly pelted stones on CPM supporters leaving several injured. Left leader, Moinul Hassan and seven others, including two women were seen attacked by Trinamool Congress supporters. They were seriously injured in the brick batting and are admitted to the local hospital.
Later, RAF was rushed to the spot to bring the situation under control. Police and RAF personnel resorted to a lathicharge to disperse agitating demonstrators of Left and Trinamool Congress.
The scene in Kolkata was not any different. CPM party office at Ramgarh under Patuli Police Station limits was vandalised by allegedly Trinamool Congress supporters.
Several women supporters of Socialist Unity Centre of India protesting at Esplanade, were arrested by police for blocking the road.
Meanwhile, normal life was hit as most offices and taxis remained off the roads. Despite the effort by the state transport department to press more buses and taxis into service, commuters faced a harrowing time finding a vehicle to reach their office. On the other hand, Metro trains were overflowing with passengers. Several rail blockades were put across Sodepur and Sealdah rail lines. Most schools remained closed on Wednesday.
The trade unions are opposing proposed labour law amendments by the Narendra Modi-led government, that they deem as pro-investors and anti-labour. Trade unions have sought for an increase in minimum wages, regularising contract labour amid agitation that the Centre made amendments to the laws without consulting the unions.
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