Unions’ strike hits life, 2 Left MLAs hurt in Bengal clashes
Normal life was affected in various parts of the country today as 10 Central trade unions went on a day-long nationwide strike to press for the acceptance of their 12-point charter of demands.
Barring clashes in West Bengal, which led to around 1,000 arrests, the strike remained peaceful. In Kolkata, CPM legislators Insar Ali Biswas and Dhren Bagdi and former MP Mainul Hasan were seriously injured in police lathicharge and alleged stone-pelting by activists of the ruling Trinamool Congress.
The trade unions, in a joint statement, claimed unprecedented response and said the strike was the biggest ever in the country. Tapan Sen, CITU general secretary, said over 15 crore workers participated in the event. The impact was most visible in Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Kerala, Assam, Goa, Telangana, Puducherry, Odisha, Manipur and Jharkhand where transport services, banking and telecom operations and coal production were affected. The response was partial in Punjab, Haryana, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, UP, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Delhi and Meghalaya.
The unions decided to go ahead with the strike after their talks with a ministerial panel last month failed to yield desired results on their 12-point charter of demands.
The demands included urgent measures to rein in price rise, containing unemployment, strict enforcement of basic labour laws, universal social security cover for all workers and minimum wage of Rs 15,000 per month.
They are also demanding higher pensions, stopping disinvestment in PSUs, ending contract system, removal of ceiling on bonus and provident fund, compulsory registration of trade unions within 45 days, no unilateral amendment to labour laws and stopping FDI in Railways and Defence.
All-India Bank Employees Association general secretary CH Venkatachalam said employees of 23 public sector banks, 12 private banks, 52 regional and rural banks and over 13,000 cooperative banks participated in the strike.
Gurudas Dasgupta, AITUC president, said the government “must learn a lesson from today’s strike and hold talks with the unions to resolve their issues”.
State-run Coal India saw nearly half of its 1.7 million tonne daily production getting hit by the strike, as a majority of around four lakh coal workers across the country joined the strike. Union leaders, however, said the impact could be 90 per cent at Coal India, which accounts for 80 per cent of the country's total coal production.
Coal and Power Minister Piyush Goyal said the strike would not have much impact as there was sufficient coal stock to meet any eventualities, while there was no problem at all with the electricity generation.
Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, who was part of the group of ministers that held talks with the trade unions, said the strike "by and large has not had any major impact".