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Left unions' nationwide strike hits normal life

Source: PTI
Last updated on: December 14, 2006 18:26 IST
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Claiming that Thursday's general was a near total success in left-ruled West Bengal, Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) declared that the agitation would not send any wrong message to prospective investors.

"No, it will not send any wrong message outside the state. The industrial climate here is conducive for investment. Workers face injustice for 364 days. If they strike work for a single day, it will not close down industries," CITU state president Shyamal Chakraborty said.

He said that Metro Railway workers also participated in the strike. Asked about the impact of the strike in the fledgling IT industry, he said that people worked in some IT companies, but could not give a figure for attendance in the sector.

Chakraborty described incidents of enforcing the strike at the Metro Railway as "stray cases".  "About 99 per cent people have spontaneously supported the general strike in the state," he claimed.

The state CITU president said that strike was not the end of the struggle against the "anti-people" economic and labour policies of the UPA government.

The Left-affiliated trade unions on Thursday enforced a nationwide day-long general strike to protest the 'anti-people' economic and labour policies of the United Progressive Alliance government.

However, Congress-affiliated INTUC and RSS-backed BMS are not participating in the strike.

Left unions have a sizeable presence in the coal, port and docks, banking, insurance and unorganised sectors.

The Sponsoring Committee of these unions, including CPI(M)-affiliated CITU, CPI-backed AITUC, Hind Mazdoor Sabha, AICCTU, TUCC, UTUC and UTUC-LS, said there is an urgent need to step up pressure on the government through mass struggles.

The unions have accused the Manmohan Singh government of being indifferent to the sufferings of the people and ignoring rising prices of essentials.

They demanded measures to arrest price rise, enactment of the Urban Employment Guarantee Bill and legislation against sexual harassment at work place, end to layoffs and implementation of all labour laws.

The workers are also protesting against increase in foreign investment cap in the telecom sector, proposals of allowing more foreign direct investment in insurance and opening up of the pension sector.

Life at a standstill in West Bengal

Normal life was completely thrown out of gear in West Bengal on Thursday following 24-hour nation-wide general strike called by left-affiliated unions against UPA government's economic and industrial policies.

Banking, insurance and stock market operations were totally stopped. Reserve Bank of India employees also participated in the strike and there was no operation at the central bank, All India RBI Employees Association sources said. Shops, markets and other business establishments and educational institutions remained closed.

Coal India Ltd sources in Kolkata said that majority of the mines in West Bengal under Eastern Coaqlfields Ltd were hit by the strike. Mining operations were reported from only 10 of about 80 mines of ECL, the sources said.

Kolkata Port Trust sources here said that work in Kolkata and Haldia dock systems was partial. Around 45 per cent attendance was recorded at Durgapur Steel Plant. Work was however normal in IISCO Steel Plant at Burnpur, SAIL sources said.

The IT industry escaped the strike as the round-the-clock operations in Salt Lake electronics complex remained unaffected with the newly launched trade union body in the sector deciding not to enforce the bandh.

Bandh-supporters stopped the Metro Railway services from Dum Dum to Tollygunj which barely managed to run six pairs of trains in the morning between Dum Dum and Maidan stations.

Metro Railway sources said bandh supporters demonstrated both in Dum Dum and Tollygunj and heckled some motormen following which the train services were stopped. Suburban train services both in the Howrah and Sealdah divisions were paralysed.

Spicejet operated one flight in the morning in the Kolkata-Guwahati-Delhi route while one Delhi-Guwahati Indigo flight landed at the NSC Bose International Airpot due to bad weather condition in Guwahati, airport sources said. Druk Air also operated one flight in the morning to Paro.

In a departure from earlier bandhs, airlines including Indian and Jet, have cancelled their operations from the metropolis. About 80 Port Blair-bound passengers who stayed overnight at the airport were stranded due to cancellation of morning flights by Indian Airlines and Jet Airways, the sources said.

Attendance at sector-V electronic complex at Salt Lake, the hub of IT and ITeS activities in the state, was around 80 per cent. All emergency operations were on, industry sources said.

At a meeting convened by Webel of IT and ITeS companies on the eve of the strike, the industry was assured that special arrangements would be made so that employees were able to go to work and return safely.

Roads in the metropolis were deserted with no public transport while shops and establishments were closed.

Strike cripples normal life in Kerala

The nationwide strike called by Left trade unions created a 'bandh-like' situation in Kerala, crippling normal life.  The industrial hub of Kochi has been severely affected.

Most of the industries reported low attendance. In the Kochi Port, only 18 to 20 per cent attendance was reported and the port activities have come to a standstill, port sources said.

The loading and unloading operations inside the port had been hit. There had been no container movement from and to the port since the strike began at midnight last night.

Most of the government offices reported thin attendance. KSRTC was not operating its buses and boats in the district. Private buses and autorickshaws are also off the roads.

Banking operations were affected in the state. No clearing and cash transactions took place, banking sources said. Even though the bank officers are not participating in the strike, they have declared solidarity with striking workers.

Workmen unions in banks other than State Bank of India are participating in the strike.

However, the strike did not affect the BPCL-Kochi Refinery ltd with 96.1 per cent attendance being reported, KRL sources said.

The CPI(M)-backed Kochi Refinery Workers association was not participating in the strike as they had not given strike notices, the sources said.

In the public sector Fertilisers and Chemicals Travancore (FACT) 68 per cent attendance had been reported. Out of the ten recognised unions, four were participating in the strike, FACT sources said. All the three shifts are being operated.

Banks hit in Karnataka

Normal life remained unaffected on Thursday in Karnataka. However, transactions in banks were, however, largely hit as a majority of employees joined the strike.

Authorities stepped up schedules of public transport, including services in the city, as about 90,000 autorickshaws, a key mode of transport, went off the roads to press a charter of demands including pension and housing benefits.

Despite a union of the Karnataka government employees extending support to the strike, it failed to evoke much response.

Banking, govt offices hit Gujarat

Work in banks and most Central government offices in Gujarat was affected by the day-long nationwide strike.

Around 25 banks whose employees are associated with Left unions are on strike, representatives of the association claimed.

The State Bank of India, Indian Overseas Bank, State Bank of Saurashtra and all private banks were open for business.

Banking, insurance hit in Bihar

Operations in banking and insurance sectors as also treasuries across Bihar were hit by the strike called by various Left-affiliated trade unions.

Functioning of various banks, including RBI, Dena Bank, Allahabad Bank, Central Bank of India, Bank of India and Nabard was paralysed though branches of State Bank of India were open, sources in the banking sector said.

A large number of employees posted at various district collectorates and treasuries owing allegiance to the Bihar non-gazetted employees federation are also on strike.

"Nearly 95 per cent of the over three lakh non-gazetted employees are on strike....the success of our stir is unprecedented," Manjul Kumar Das, general secretary of the federation claimed. However, work at the state secretariat was largely unaffected.

"Treasury and banking transactions have been badly affected by the strike as besides commercial banks employees, all employees and officers of regional rural banks and Bihar state cooperative bank participated in the strike," B Prasad, general secretary of bank employees federation of Bihar said.

Railway traffic has also been hit by the strike as several trains destined for Left-ruled West Bengal have been controlled at various places, chief public relations officer of East Central railway A K Chandra said.

Banks, insurance cos hit in Tamil Nadu

The nation-wide general evoked little response in Tamil Nadu where normal life remained undisturbed.

Public transport system was operated as usual though autorickshaw drivers, affiliated to CITU and AITUC, did not take out their vehicles.

However, work in banks and insurance companies were disrupted with a majority of the workers joining the strike. Serpentine queues were seen outside ATMs of most of the public-sector banks.

There was also no disruption of work in the IT sector and automobile industry, two major industries located in and around the city. Daily chores at the port trust were also on as usual, port sources said.

Banking and industrial activities were also hit in Coimbatore. Transactions in bank and insurance sector was hit in view of the absence of a majority of employees.

Majority of the over two lakh workers in the knitwear hub of Tirupur near Coimbatore participated in the strike. Only a few dyeing and knitting units seen functioning, they said.

Business was as usual as almost all shops and commercial establishments remained opened.  Though senior officers were present, absence of staff and employees hit transactions in banking and insurance sector, besides some government offices particularly central-owned ones, they said.

All modes of public transport, including buses and autorickshaws, operated as usual. Educational institutions were also functioning normal in the district, police said.

Strike paralyses normal life in Tripura

Normal life was paralysed in Left- ruled Tripura following a 24-hour nation-wide general strike called by left-affiliated trade unions against the UPA government's economic and industrial policies.

The state-run and private bus services, trucks and taxis were off the roads since the strike began midnight. Employees belonging to pro-Left unions in government services and education sector have also joined the strike.

Shutters of shops were down and all markets in the state remained closed.

Telecommunication services and power supply were functioning and there were no disruptions.

Essential services like water supply, healthcare and media have been exempted from the strike.

No violence had been reported from any place and the police had made elaborate security arrangements throughout the state.

The strike was called by sponsoring committee of central trade unions including CITU and AITUC, against the UPA government's economic, labour and industrial policies that harmed the interests of the working classes in the country.

Rail traffic in Mumbai hit

Rail traffic was disrupted for sometime after agitators blocked trains at two stations in response to a nationwide strike by Left-affiliated trade unions on Thursday.

Trains were stopped at Andheri station at 10 a.m. for 15 minutes and also at Goregaon station during peak office hours as protestors blocked the rail lines.

Police later removed the agitators and the services were resumed, Railway officials said.

However, trains are running behind schedule, they added. The Left-affiliated trade unions are protesting "anti-people" economic and labour policies of the UPA government. 

Manipur unaffected by strike

Normal life in Manipur remained unaffected in Manipur during the nationwide general strike called by Left-affiliated trade unions.

Markets, shops and business establishments remained open and government offices functioned normally, officials said.

Attendance in government offices was normal while private offices as well as educational institutions were also open.

Transport services between Manipur and neighbouring states and within the state operated as usual.

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