NEW DELHI: About 15 crore workers are on a strike all over the country today and essential services like banking and public transport may be affected in some places. Ten major trade unions have called the one-day ‘Bharat bandh.’
Here are the latest developments:
West Bengal has reported early impact, with clashes between the opposition Left, which supports the bandh and the ruling Trinamool. A woman was injured in a police lathi-charge and some trains were stopped by protestors.
There are fewer private buses and taxis on the roads in Kolkata and many schools are closed. Most factories in Howrah are closed too.
In Delhi, autorickshaw unions have said they will join the strike. The bandh call has had no impact in Tamil Nadu, where buses are running normally.
The trade unions have called the Bharat bandh to press a 12-point charter of demands that includes the withdrawal of proposed changes in labour laws and stopping the disinvestment and privatisation of Public Sector Undertakings or PSUs.
Unions like the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), which is backed by the ruling BJP, and the National Front of Trade Unions are not participating in the strike. But several organisations representing informal sector workers have announced their support.
The government’s appeal to the trade unions to call off the strike went unheard, but Union Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya has said he expects the impact to be minimal.
Union leaders, however, said the strike will affect the functioning of essential services like banking, transport and supply of power, gas and oil.
The BJP-backed BMS has countered that saying power, oil and gas supply will not be hit as a large number of public sector workers in these areas are not participating in the strike.
The BMS supports the 12-point charter of worker demands but argues that the government must be given time to act on them. Talks have been on for some time now between the unions and the government.
The government has indicated that the talks with trade unions will continue despite the strike. “We don’t want any confrontation with trade unions. The workers’ rights and interests are supreme to us,” said Mr Dattatreya said.