08/01/2019 10:52 AM IST

Bharat Bandh: Clashes In Bengal; Buses Off Roads In Mumbai, Bengaluru

The two-day-long strike is likely to see protest rallies, road blockades and demonstrations.

Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Representative image. 

Over 20 crore workers from the organised sector are likely to participate in a two-day-long Bharat bandh called by 10 major central trade unions in protest of the “anti-labor, anti-people and anti-national policies of the BJP led NDA government” beginning on Tuesday.

This bandh is likely to have an effect on public transport, electricity supply and even banks, disrupting daily life in cities across India.

Ten trade unions — Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS), Trade Union Coordination Centre (TUCC), Labour Progressive Federation (LPF), Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU), United Trade Union Congress (UTUC) and Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) — are likely to be joined by independent federations and association from the various sectors.

Clashes in Bengal, no buses in Mumbai and Bengaluru

The two-day-long strike is likely to see protest rallies, road blockades and demonstrations.

Clashes broke out among workers of the Trinamool Congress and the CPI-M in Asansol. ANI reported that in Kolkata, CPI-M workers were detained by the police for blocking roads.

Stones were pelted at a school bus in Champadali area of Barasat in North 24 Parganas district. A government bus was also ransacked by strike supporters at Champadali. Protestors also vandalised a bus at Jamuria in Paschim Bardhaman district.

Buses were off the road in Mumbai and Bengaluru, with Mumbai’s BEST buses beginning the strike from mid-night on Monday. In West Bengal’s Howrah trade unions blocked railway lines.

In Bhubaneshwar, members of the Central Trade Unions blocked roads and were seen burning tires.

Trade unions are likely to march from Mandi House to Parliament on Tuesday in New Delhi. Meanwhile, AICCTU members held a protest in Patparganj.

If CITU’s statements are to be believed, this is well-planned protest and is likely have an impact across India. The CITU claimed the unions in the unorganized sector are well in preparation for the massive strike with plans for road roko, rail roko type of agitations through massive mobilisations.

“Railway unions have expressed their support and would organize solidarity actions. Modi Government, in the last three months, since we declared our decision of two days general strike from the National Convention of workers on 28th September 2018, has increased its pace of attacks on workers instead of dialogue with unions. With every passing day, the Government is coming forward with more of aggressive policies to ruthlessly cripple public sector undertakings and to safeguard the loot by the corporate houses through provisions of IBC Act and various other measures to the detriment to the economy,” CITU said in a press statement.

Why trade unions are angry with Modi government

The workers unions have demanding reduction in prices of essential commodities and minimum wages, among others.

Amarjeet Kaur, the general secretary of the AITUC, said that many students groups, farmers’ organisations, and teacher’s bodies have also extended their support to the 48-hour long strike.

Kaur seemed disgruntled with the Narendra Modi government at the Centre for not “paying heed” to the demands of trade unions or even holding discusssions. He told Huffpost India, “Ten major central trade unions will be joined by independent federations and associations of various sectors like banks, insurance, telecom, postal, defense, central and state government. We (trade unions) have been pursuing our demands with this government since 2015…. Our demands are the prices (of essential commodities) must be controlled because the common man and working people are suffering (because of price rise). The minimum wage is too low in our country, one of our demands is that minimum wage be increased.”

Kaur said that the government was meddling with labour laws, which was detrimental to the interests of farmers. He also blamed the government for “tightening the noose” over trade unions after their protests in 2015 and then in 2016.

CITU, in its statement, also blamed the Modi government of refusing to engage with trade unions. It said that the Centre “undermined tripartism, did not hold Indian Labour Conference for the last more than three and half years.”

Calling the BJP government’s policies an “aggressive attack with arrogance on the lives and livelihood of the working people”, the statement said, “The government policy of mass privatization of strategic PSUs, crucial infrastructure and public utilities, specially targeting the ports, airports, telecom, financial sector etc, with defense production and railways thrown open for 100% FDI, is aimed at loot of the national assets and resources on the one hand and destruction of country’s economic base on the other.”

Essential services may be interrupted

If trade unions in essential service sectors like power/electricity, road transport and banks are indeed participating in the strike, services in these sectors are likely to be hit.

Delhi Lieutenant governor Anil Baijal has already invoked the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) against three power discoms in the national capital to prevent disruption of electricity during the period of the strike.

“Efforts are being made (by authorities) to use ESMA in several states including Delhi. The Delhi Lieutenant governor has imposed it on power employees unions. Still, all workers are going to participate in the strike,” Kaur claimed.

RSS-backed trade union won’t participate

However, Bhartiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), the labour wing of the RSS, is not supporting this strike. It has 62 lakh members

Kaur claimed that non-participation BMS is unlikely to have an impact on the strike.

“The BMS is working at the behest of the (Modi) government. It is behaving as the dalal union of the government. But the workers supporting it will also participate in our strike because not participating will isolate them. They (BMS) said there is no need of strike but its workers are anguished and want to show their strength,” Kaur added.

(With inputs from PTI)