With the Left and the Congress supporting the one-day nationwide strike of 10 central trade unions, the effects of bandh were on predictable lines.States ruled by the two parties Kerala, Karnataka, Tripura, Himachal Pradesh — saw total support for the bandh and in others, the response remained mixed and marginal.
Telangana was the only non-Congress/non-Left ruled State where the labour force’s response was strong. Apparently, in Union Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya’s home State, the old roots of Left politics have still not been uprooted. But it was business as usual in the commercial capital of Mumbai as well as in Delhi, where ESMA was clamped by the Kejriwal government.
That’s without counting nationalised banks, where the response to the strike was perceptible. Private banks functioned without hindrance though. Lucknow witnessed protests and Kolkata saw clashes between TMC and CPM workers. Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who fashioned her politics around bandh calls, did not support the workers’ strike, largely propelled by trade unions of her political rivals.
According to reports, what stood out most, was the impact of the strike on ISRO, where for the first time nearly 6,000 employees did not turn up for work, but then in Kerala, it was expected. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan wholeheartedly supported protesting trade unions, bringing transport and other services to a standstill. In Left ruled Tripura too the story was no different.
According to the trade unions, the response in Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh was the most heartening for them as lakhs of workers responded to the strike call to oppose what they called the Centre’s ‘anti-labour policies’ and unilateral move to amend labour laws, without taking the unions on board.
The trade unions are opposing FDI in defence, insurance and railways, as also the government’s bank merger plan. The demand for creation of employment and social security net and reining in of prices got equal prominence. In Himachal Pradesh, the hotel industry too joined in the national strike, in which about 15 crore workers across the country took part, including in Karnataka where educational institutions too were shut, particularly in Bengaluru. In the millennium city of Gurgaon, Haryana, too, surprisingly the strike call generated response.
Apart from the nationalised banks, 90 per cent of Coal India employees stayed away from work. But Power Minister Piyush Goyal said it did not hit power generation services which had enough coal reserves for at least five-to-six days. At Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s behest, the Central government tried its level best to avert the strike. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had announced a hike in minimum wages for Central government employees.