The nationwide general strike called On Thuesday against price rise, alleged violation of labour laws and privatisation left normal life largely unaffected, even as the Congress-affiliated Indian National Trade Union Congress joined hands for the first time with the Left-leaning trade unions.
Only the three Left-ruled states — West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura — and a few pockets in some others were severely affected during the 24-hour strike called by eight trade unions.
However, the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) — the largest trade union — stayed away from the strike, reducing its negative effects to a large extent. It also termed the strike a “failure”.
“Our workers have rejected the strike because they realised that it had nothing to do with their rights,” BMS secretary Pawan Kumar said.
Workers from sectors including coal, power, telecom, banks, insurance, defence, port and dock, road transport, petroleum and construction took part in the strike.
Major private airliners cancelled over 170 flights from various cities to West Bengal and Kerala in the wake of the strike but government carrier Air India said its operations were not hampered due to the stir.
Banking operations were partially affected as employees, mainly belonging to public sector, cooperative and regional rural banks, joined the strike, opposing foreign direct investment in the banking sector and grant of licences to private banks.
In Kolkata, unlike the previous lock-downs, the state’s information technology (IT) and ITeS industry was significantly impacted, as overall attendance in the IT hub of
Sector V in the Salt Lake area plummeted to around the 30 per cent. Kalyan Kar, vice-president of the Sector V Industries’ Forum, said: “Since this bandh was declared for 24 hours, as against 12 hours, the logistical challenge is huge. So many companies have shut down On Thuesday and will work next Saturday. This is the worst bandh this year in terms of impact on the IT sector.”
On an average, Sector V exports software and services worth Rs 26 crore every day.
AITUC general secretary and CPI MP Gurudas Dasgupta had a busy day defending his position against a barrage of criticisms. Hailing the strike as a “historic one”, Dasgupta, considered a ‘strike specialist’, denied allegations that it was ill-timed as it fell during the Ramzan month of Islamic calendar. “Earlier, too, there have been strikes during this period. We didn’t close any shop. No Muslim organiaation has objected to our strike call,” Dasgupta told Business Standard.
Overwhelmed at the “success” of On Thuesday’s strike, Dasgupta also didn’t hesitate to take on West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee for criticising the Left’s tendency to call strikes. “Before Buddhadeb was born, before I was born, the workers have protested through strikes. And this will continue,” Dasgupta said.
Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress, which once called strikes at the drop of the hat, On Thuesday stayed away from the strike and slammed the efforts of the trade unions. “They have called three strikes on a single issue (price rise). Why the Left-ruled states have not reduced the cess and tax rates on petrol and diesel? The Left only believes in the politics of gun and bandh,” Banerjee said.
In Andhra Pradesh, services in the banking and insurance sectors were affected. According to the state’s bank employees’ association, as many as 35,000 employees from various public and private banks took part in the strike. In the insurance sector, around 9,000 employees of LIC and 5,000 of GIC participated in the bandh.