09/01/2019 7:01 PM IST

Bharat Bandh: Agitation To Continue, Will Affect BJP In Elections, Say Trade Unions

The unions are protesting against the government's alleged anti-labour policies and unilateral labour reforms.

ARUN SANKAR via Getty Images
Members of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) stop a train in Chennai during the nationwide strike.

The two-day strike by central trade unions on Tuesday and Wednesday evoked a mixed response across the country, with banking and transport services being affected partially and a few incidents of violence seen in West Bengal.

As many as 10 central trade unions (CTUs), except the RSS-affiliated Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, protested against the government’s alleged “anti-labour policies and unilateral labour reforms”. They had given a call for a two-day Bharat Bandh on 8 and 9 January.

All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) General Secretary Amarjeet Kaur told HuffPost India that the agitation will continue until the government pays heed to the demands. 

The demands

The trade unions are protesting the government’s snub of their 12-point charter of demands seeking a minimum wage of Rs 18,000, social security for all workers and issues related to price rise.

The unions have alleged that the government has failed to create jobs and grossly ignored their 12-point charter of demands.

The unions had also demanded a pension of Rs 3,000 per month and a hike in the provident fund, gratuity and bonus to workers, reported The Hindu.

Anger towards BJP

The trade unions have continuously accused the central government of being anti-worker and ignoring their interests. 

Kaur said, “Either the government understands this anguish or it will be turned against it in the elections.”

MA Patil, president of National Trade Union Initiative, had also appealed to people to not vote for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) if the policies introduced by the Narendra Modi government are not withdrawn, reported The Hindu.

Even during the 2019 elections, Kaur said that they want to give the message that this government is “stubborn”, “acting against farmers and peasants” and “must be thrown out”.

What happened during the strike?

Banking services were partially affected for the second day, as a section of PSU bank employees came in support of the strike call.

The All India Bank Employees’ Association (AIBEA) and Bank Employees’ Federation of India (BEFI) have supported the strike, which impacted operations in places where these two unions are strong.

However, operations of SBI and private sector banks remained unaffected as other seven unions in the banking sector are not part of the strike.

Other sectors such as mining, road transport and power supply were also affected.

Sporadic incidents of violence in West Bengal and Kerala and rail blockades in certain states were witnessed on Wednesday.

Stones were pelted at school buses in Howrah district. Similar incidents were reported on Tuesday as well. There were similar incidents of stone pelting in other parts of the state too.

In Kerala, a treasury branch of the State Bank of India in Thiruvananthapuram was attacked on Wednesday and trains were blocked in various parts of the state.

Trains were stopped by protesters at a few places in Tamil Nadu as well and banking services in some public sector banks were interrupted in Telangana but life largely remained unaffected on Wednesday.

However, some impact of the strike was seen in Goa as private buses and tourist taxis remained off roads. Long queues of passengers were seen at various bus stands after the private buses association in the state shut operations.

Hundreds of protesters from the Left trade unions disrupted bus services at Majestic, the Central Bus Stand, here. The Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) buses also remained stationed in their respective depots across the state as protesters damaged the vehicles.

 (With PTI inputs)