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Strike hits banking, insurance biz

February 24, 2004 18:38 IST

Banking and insurance services were paralysed on Tuesday as their staff and officers joined public sector employees on a day-long nation-wide strike to protest against the Supreme Court order on strikes and to press their demands for wage revision.

Normal life was hit in West Bengal and Kerala, traditional left strongholds, with vehicular traffic going off the roads and train services, including that of Metro Railway, coming to a halt.

Counters in public sector banks and insurance companies across the country wore a deserted look while private sector and international banks functioned normally.

However, Congress-affiliated INTUC, BJP's labour arm, BMS and Shiva Sena's HMS did not support the strike. PSUs in power, oil, telecom, airlines and railways were unaffected.

Trade unions alleged police lathicharge and arrest in states like Delhi, Haryana, Assam, Pondicherry and Orissa.

Claiming that the strike was "total and beyond their expectations", CITU president M K Pandhe said police action would not put down their spirit and they would "prolong the battle" till the Centre reversed its economic policies and ensure steps for "Right to Strike."

In Mumbai, foreign exchange operations were affected.

AITUC general secretary Gurudas Das Gupta said coal mining workers in nine companies also struck work and so was the case with workmen in the construction and plantation sector.

University teachers and employees as well as students in Delhi joined the strike.

The trade unions -- CITU, AITUC. AICCTU, TUCC, UTUC and UTUC (LS) -- along with associations and federations of state and central government employees, had also called the strike to protest against "false" propaganda of 'India Shining', saying both unemployment and retrenchment were on the rise.

Convenor of All India Coordination Committee of Unions in the financial sector, Santha Raju, claimed that the strike was total in the banking sector and over 15 lakh (1.5 million) employees in the sector, including insurance and Reserve Bank of India and Unit Trust of India, took part in the agitation.

The banking sector also demanded one more pension option for the employees. Of the ten unions in the banking sector, six of them joined the strike.

Of the five unions in the insurance sector, three of them participated in the strike. The All India Insurance Employees Association general secretary, K Venu Gopal, claimed the strike was total and was in protest against the moves by the Centre to destabilise public sector insurance industry.

Pandhe said that in Tamil Nadu there was only demonstration by the government employees, but there was strike in industrial units.

He said the strike, which is second in this financial year, evoked good response in Maharashtra, Orissa, Rajasthan, Punjab, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh.

Pandhe claimed that around 4-5 crore workers took part in the strike, which also led to diversion of flights mainly at Kolkata airport.

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