New Delhi: In one of the biggest nationwide strikes by workers, joined by protesting farmers in India, several states saw a complete shutdown on Thursday. Over 25 crore workers across sectors participated in the strike, called by 10 central trade unions and hundreds of worker associations and federations in perhaps the biggest ever coordinated general strike anywhere in the world.
Kerala, Puducherry, Odisha, Assam and Telangana witnessed a complete shutdown while normal life was partially affected in several other states as workers struck work and took to the streets, protesting against the “anti-worker” and pro-corporate policies and labour laws as well as the new farm laws brought in by the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata party government, among other demands.
"The states of Kerala, Puducherry, Odisha, Assam and Telangana have reported complete shut down. Tamil Nadu reported complete shut down in 13 districts, while the industrial strike continues in the rest of the districts. Punjab and Haryana have reported that the state road transport buses have not left their depots in the morning," a joint statement issued by the trade unions said.
Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh reported 100% strike, including at BALCO, the statement said.
The joint platform incudes Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS), Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), All India United Trade Union Centre (AIUTUC), Trade Union Co-ordination Centre (TUCC) and Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA), All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU) , Labour Progressive Federation (LPF) and United Trade Union Congress (UTUC).
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-affiliated Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh stayed away from the joint action.
The strike saw stoppage of work in banks, financial services, various government services, transport, steel units, port and docks, telecommunication services, plantations, power generating units, coal and other mines, oil and natural gas production units, and millions of other miscellaneous industries. Government offices, railways, post and telegraph services and scores of other government offices are also likely to be affected as employees will hold solidarity demonstrations. Several lakh women working as Anganwadi workers/helpers, healthcare workers, mid-day meal cooks and those employed in other government run schemes have also gone on strike.
"Reports of successful strike in coal and copper mines, including other mineral resource mines, have been received. The employees of postal, telecom and steel sector were also in action and gramin dak sevaks observed 100 per cent strike," the statement said.
Farmers from across the country also marched to Delhi in protest against the new corporate-friendly farm laws and in solidarity with workers, braving arrests, teargas, water cannons and numerous barricades on the way, especially in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh .
BJP-aligned Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) is not participating in the strike.
Maharashtra: Strike a Grand Success
Almost 50 lakh labours from different sections including local government, union government, port, private companies, railway, anganwadi, banks in Maharashtra participated in the strike. This was the biggest strike in recent times.
Kalpana Padbidre, 38, from Solapur sat for five hours on the road in protest, not scared of the large police force.
"I am jobless since April. I used to work in a handloom company but it discontinued our work since mid-April. Somehow I am surviving selling vegetables. The demand to give us Rs 7,500 monthly until the corona affecting the company, is justifiable," she said.
“Thursday’s strike has shown the anger and warned Modi government," said DL Karad, state president of CITU, said.
This time, the unorganised sector workers also joined the strike in large numbers – from sectors such as real estate to sugarcane cutting or coolies, Labourers in tribal areas also protested at various tehsil and district collector offices.
Organisations such as Jan Andolanachi Sangharsha Samiti actively participated in Pune, Satara, Raigad, Nanded and Amravati . – Amey Tirodkar
Assam: Modi’s Effigy Burnt in Tea Gardens
Work in factories, refineries, banks, transport sector in Assam came to a standstill as workers, including in several tea gardens in Upper Assam participated in the strike. In Jorhat district, Jogibheta tea garden, Hindubari tea garden, Monomoi tea garden and Damayanti tea garden, workers organised protests and PM Modi’s effigy burning.
Among the places where picketing was reported since early morning were Digboi refinery, Guwahati refinery, India Carbon, Assam Carbon, Assam Asbestos etc. The Noonmati area, which has over 3,000 workers, joined the strike. Massive protests were also seen in Brahmaputra Cracker and Polymer Limited, ONGC Silchar and other small scale industries in Assam. – Sandipan Talukdar
Tamil Nadu: Over 50,000 Detained
The strike was near complete in banking, insurance, BSNL, Salem Steel Plant BHEL, Thoothukudi VOC Port and Bharat Petroleum bottling plant. Government employees, employees of cooperative societies, local administration department and anganwadi workers participated in large numbers in the strike and demonstrations.
G Sukumaran, general secretary of Tamil Nadu unit of CITU said, “The strike saw massive participation from workers across various sectors against the policies pursued by the BJP government. More than 50,000 people were detained across the state with huge participation of women workers as well”.
Narendra Rao, general secretary of Water Transport Workers Federation of India (WTWFI) said, “The workers of major ports across the country took part in the strike while we withdrew the strike in Chennai port. We reiterate our demands on scrapping the Major Ports Act, 2020, withdrawal of New Stevedoring policy and the new pension scheme”.
Work in Salem Steel Plant came to a standstill as 98% of the employees participated in the strike. Panneer Selvam, president of SPEU said, “The employees of the SSP have resolved to defeat all privatisation moves carried out by the Union government.” --Neelambaran A
Overwhelming Response in Telugu States
Andhra Pradesh and Telangana saw massive campaigns among workers across sectors against the new labour laws.
Saibabu, Telangana state general secretary of CITU said there was complete strike in public sector units, including Bharat Electronics Limited, Bharat Dynamics Ltd, Electronics Corporation of India Ltd, Defence Research and Development Laboratory, Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd, Indian Oil Corporation Ltd and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd among others.
“Among private entities, industries located around Hyderabad across Patancheru, Cherlapalli, Medchal and Sangareddy saw thousands of organised sector workers boycotting work and joined protest demonstrations,” he said.
Telangana State Road Transport Corporation workers, Municipal workers and left parties' leaders' sit-in protest in front of Nalgonda Bus Station.
Over 40,000 coal workers across units of the Singareni Collieries Company Ltd in Kothagudem, Bellampalli and Ramagundam too joined the strike, including contract and outsourced workers.
In the construction sector, “about 3 lakh construction workers, 2.5 lakh hamalis (loading and unloading workers) and about three lakh beedi workers have stopped work on Thursday,” said Paladugu Bashkar of CITU.
In Andhra Pradesh, despite Cyclone Nivar causing heavy rainfall, “response to the general strike has been overwhelming,” CH Narasinga Rao, Andhra Pradesh CITU president said.
PSUs in Visakhapatnam including steel plant, shipyard, Bharat Heavy Electronics Limited, Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd, Visakha Port, Dockyards, Indian Oil Corporation, Dredging Corporation of India, National Thermal Power Corporation, Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited and Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited were completely shut down except for essential purposes. “Over 90% workers in Adani Group’s Krishnapatnam port in Nellore stopped their work as part of the general strike,” said Rao. – Prudhviraj Rupawat
Bihar: Street Protests Mark the Day
Thousands of people took to streets and staged protests in Bihar during the nationwide general. Employees of banks, insurance, income tax ,BSNL along with contractual employees of the health,e ducation and other department of the state government participated in the strike that badly hit the work in offices and in the field.
Employees of about 5,127 bank branches sans SBI in Bihar remained on strike.
“It was a complete strike in banks as employees of Bihar Gramin banks and Cooperative banks also joined us.We have protested against privatisation of public sector banks by the centre”, D N Trivedi,a leader of All India Bank Officers Association said.
Several roads including NHs, SHs were blocked in Begusarai,Vaishali,Jehanabad,Muzaffarpur,Gaya,Patna,Bhagalpur,Madhubani,Vaishali,Bhojpur,Siwan,Samastipur districts by protesters. – Mohd Imran Khan
Kerala: Over 1.5 Crore Workers Join Strike
More than 1.5 crore workers in Kerala along with farmers took part in the nationwide strike affecting normal life, barring essential services.
“Few states have proposed 12-hour work day. The government wants to reinstate enchained working system,” said state CITU president Anathalavattam Anandan, adding that the workers won’t allow the governments to exploit them.
The general strike saw participation of unions and associations from all sections including banking, insurance, public sector undertakings, scheme workers- including ASHAs, Anganwadi Workers- plantation, motor vehicle, unorganized sectors etc.
Healthcare workers participating in the All India General Strike in Kerala.
The employees from private finances and non-banking sectors, also joined under the banner of Non-Banking and Private finance Employees Association. The employees from BPCL, Manappuram Finance, Muthoot finance and other firms also held protests.
Following COVID-19 protocol, trade unions kept themselves away from organising mass rallies and organised protests gatherings over 25,000 centres across the state. – Shilpa Shaji
Delhi NCR: Slogans Rent Air in Industrial Belts
The strike witnessed a significant support among the workers in the satellite cities of the national capital; Noida, Greater Noida, Ghaziabad and Faridabad.
The workers of the industrial units in Noida marched in Sector-2 and 8, Botanical Garden, Hosiery complex, Eco Third area and peacefully dispersed following the coronavirus guidelines.
Gangeshwar Dutt Sharma, Secretary, Noida CITU, said “trade unions, for long, have been demanding a liveable salary for factory workers. Currently, factory workers in Noida are being paid only Rs 8,400 as minimum salary.”
Sharma said workers' anger was also against rampant privatisation of public sector undertaking that was snatching away employment.
Narendra Nath Pandey, Treasurer, Rehri Patri Karmakar Union affiliated to CITU, in Greater Noida said workers are being consistently fired from jobs after the nationwide lockdown was announced.
Roma Sharma, a street vendor at the March said that she has lost her confidence in the central government after it passed labour codes without consulting workers or their organisations. “We had no other option but to hit the street and we did it today.”
In the national capital, rallies were held in
Wazirpur Industrial Area and Narela Industrial Area demand revocation of the labour codes.
CONCOR employees protesed against privatisation at container depots at New Delhi and Dadri. – Ravi Kaushal & Ronak Chhabra
West Bengal: ‘Huge’ Response, Say 16 TUs
CITU West Bengal Committee secretary Anadi Sahoo and INTUC State President Kamrujjmann said 90% of Central government employees joined the strike while 60 -70% state government employees participated.
In military engineering services, 85% workers participated and ordinance factories saw only 20% attendance .
There was ‘huge ‘response in the jute, tea, coal steel and small and medium iron-based industries, too, the unions said.
The strike was also effective in Kolkata Port, cement, banking, wholesale markets and among medical representatives.
About 70% of vehicular traffic in Kolkata was off roads and picketing and blockades on suburban Railway lines were reported.
In Dumdum and Garia there were reports of skirmishes with police as well as in Jadavpur too.
The Police and administration had taken tough measures to foil the strike as the ruling Trinamool Congress did not supporting the workers and farmers strike, while backing the issues raised. – Sandip Chakraborty
MP: Section 144 Mars Response to Strike
Owing to the imposition of Section 144 in the various districts of State in a view of COVID-19 guidelines and cancellation of permission for rallies and processions, the nation-wide general strike got a lukewarm response in Madhya Pradesh.
Out of 52 districts, the strike got support in nearly 25-30 districts including Bhopal, Indore, Jabalpur, Sagar, Damoh, Dhar in various sectors and workers and labourers of the various trade unions and factories registered their disappointment and boycotted the work for the first couple of hours.
Madhya Pradesh farmers who were on their way to Delhi to picket Parliament have also been stopped on Agra-Delhi National Highway 2. Social activist Medha Patkar, CPI(M) leader Jaswinder Singh who were marching towards Delhi with the farmer's convoy had been stopped from entering Delhi.
The strike was effective in banks, coal mines of of Singrauli, Anupur, Shahdol, Umaria, Baitul and Chhindwara districts and Cement plants of Rewa and Satna districts where 65-70 % of the workers either remain absent or boycotted the half-day work.
In nearly 20 districts including Sagar, Damoh, Panna, Chhattarpur, Indore the private buses and loading trucks were off the road till 12 pm, claimed trade unions.
Various factories of Special Economic Zones including Govindpura Industrial Area, Mandideep, Malanpur, Pithampura and Defense factories of Jabalpur and Itarsi remain closed for half-day in support of the strike. Aganwadi, ASHA-USHA workers, Krishi Upaj Mandis labourers and medical representatives also extended their support and carried out protests despite the imposition of section 144.—Kashif Kakvi
J&K: Huge Participation Across Districts
Jammu and Kashmir saw a huge participation of workers in support of the national general strike called jointly by 10 central trade unions. Hundreds of workers gathered in protest at Press Clubs, of Jammu division and Kashmir division, respectively.
Raja, a migrant labourer from Bihar in Jammu, who works as a casual labourer with Border Roads Organisation said since 2016, they are working even on Sundays with no payment for extra work.
“Are these good days that Modi ji had promised? By keeping us empty stomach,” he said.
Anganwadi workers protest in Kashmir.
Slogans like Inqilab Zindabad, Lal Jab Aayega, Inqalab Laayega, Hamari Maange Poori Karo, rent the air as Anganwadi workers joined the strike, too.
In Chenab valley including Kishtwar, Doda, Ramban, workers had picketed outside their work stations. Jai Lal Parihar, CITU leader from Kishtwar, said the primary demand of workers were minimum wages.
In Kashmir, worker protests were held in different districts including Anantnag, Pulwama, Baramulla, Kulgam. – Sagrika Kissu
(With inputs from PTI)