Maharashtra, Bengal largely shrug off unions' strike call

Last Updated: Wed, Feb 20, 2013 21:10 hrs

The two-day strike called by trade unions to protest against the economic policies of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government disrupted life in many parts of the country on the first day on Wednesday.

Auto-rickshaws and state transport buses remained off the roads in most states.

The 11 striking central unions are demanding urgent steps to control price rise, enforce strict labour laws, ensure social security net for workers in the unorganised sector, end disinvestment in public sector units and raise minimum wage to Rs 10,000.

Noida witnessed stone pelting and burning of over a dozen vehicles. A trade union leader and bus driver with Haryana Roadways, Narender Singh, was killed in Ambala. However, the Haryana government issued a press statement saying it was an accident.

Commuters in Delhi faced hardships as a section of auto-rickshaws and taxis did not ply. The Delhi Metro services were not affected, but bus services were partially hit as a number of bus unions, including a section of the Delhi Transport Corporation employees, supported the strike.

Residents of Mumbai did not suffer much due to the strike as the city’s lifelines, the suburban railway and BEST services, functioned. Auto-rickshaws, taxis and private buses also plied as usual, and shops, restaurants, and private offices were open. Schools and colleges were also open as several unions representing teachers, junior and senior college professors did not participate in the strike. Banking operations, including treasury and money market, were hit. Public sector banks were closed.

Operations at banks, especially those of public sector ones, came to a standstill. According to an Indian Bank’s Association official, 80-85 per cent of branches were shut. Branches of private and foreign banks were open. Foreign exchange, bond and money markets saw less activity, so did clearing houses (of cheques), said a Reserve Bank official.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee kept her promise, ensuring adequate public transport in Kolkata. Passenger load in Kolkata airport was almost normal. Operations in Howrah, Sealdah railway divisions were normal, despite minor disruptions in sub-urban train services in the morning. But most people did not use the road and rail transport services, making the nationwide strike partially successful in the state.

Kerala was affected but no violent incident was reported. As the state level co-ordination committee of the trade unions had appealed to the people not to travel and to the traders not to open shops, most roads and streets had a deserted look.

In Assam, too, public transport remained off the roads and many private offices and banks were closed. Many business establishments in Guwahati kept shutters down. Except a few minor incidents of stone pelting at vehicles in Lower Assam, the bandh was peaceful across Assam.

In Uttar Pradesh, state buses were off the roads and banks were closed. The common man was hit in Odisha and Left Front-ruled Tripura, too.

In Andhra Pradesh, personnel of various public sector organisations stayed away from work. Banking, insurance and other commercial activities in Madhya Pradesh were affected. Karnataka saw mixed response, amid tight security. Software majors in Bangalore functioned, and unions at public sector companies took part in demonstrations and rallies. Some stone pelting was reported in Bellary. Police said students affiliated to Left-wing unions went around on motorcycles to enforce the shutdown. Schools and colleges were closed.

In Gujarat, workers from various sectors, including transport and banking, refrained from work. Bihar, too, felt disruptions. Business establishments were shut at many places. The bandh supporters were seen forcing traders to down shutters. Trains and road traffic were hit due to demonstrations.

The strike had only partial impact in Tamil Nadu, as a majority of shops remained open and transport services were operational.

Bihar, too, felt disruptions. Business establishments remained shut at many places in the state. The bandh supporters were seen forcing traders to down shutters of their shops. Trains and road traffic were hit badly in several parts of Bihar as the bandh supporters waving red flags staged demonstration.

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