A two-day nationwide strike has been called by a joint forum of central trade unions. The strike is likely to affect banking, transportation, railways and power services on Monday and Tuesday. The Bharat Bandh protest comes at a time when the platform of central trade unions and sectoral federations and associations aimed to draw attention to government policies, which have been defined as “anti-worker, anti-farmer and anti-national.”
All Indian Trade Union Congress General Secretary Amarjeet Kaur told PTI, “we are expecting participation of over 20 crore formal and informal workers with mass mobilization of workers across the country during the strike on March 28 and 29 to protest against government policies.”
In Kerala, all government offices remain closed on the first day of the strike. At some places, protesters stopped those in their private cars too. Empty streets defined the start of the protest in the southern state.
An advisory was issued to all the state government and electricity authorities by the ministry of power on Sunday to ensure 24*7 power supply. “All concerned may be advised to ensure close supervision of their regional network/control area and shall report to the concerned SLDC/ RLDC and NLDC in the event of any contingency… Power supply to essential services such as hospitals, defence, railways etc. should be ensured,” it read. Regional and state control rooms have been put on alert.
This is the first major protest that India is set to witness after assembly elections in five states. The BJP was able to retain four of five states – Uttar Pradesh, Manipur, Uttarakhand and Goa – while the AAP won Punjab. The BJP said it won the four states because of its pro-people and pro-development agenda.
West Bengal saw demonstrators on streets. Train tracks were blocked by protesters. Visuals shared by news agency ANI showed Left-backed demonstrators on rail tracks in huge numbers at the Jadavpur Railway Station in Kolkata.
The strike notices were given by workers’ unions of various sectors such as coal, steel, oil, telecom, postal, income tax, copper, banks and insurance. Unions in railways and defence sector will carry out mass mobilization in support of the strike at several places, the joint forum said.
The unions’ demands include scrapping of the proposed changes in labour laws, privatisation of any form and the national monetisation pipeline. Increased allocation of wages under MNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Act) and regularisation of contract workers are also part of their demands.
Workers of roadways, transport and electricity departments have also decided to join the strike in spite of the impending threat of ESMA (Essential Services Maintenance Act) which is likely to be imposed in Haryana and Chandigarh, the joint forum said in a statement.
Trade unions, including INTUC, AITUC, HMS, CITU, AIUTUC, TUCC, SEWA, AICCTU, LPF and UTUC are part of the joint forum.
(With inputs from agencies)
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