Nationwide general strike evokes mixed response

Nationwide general strike evokes mixed response

Shops are closed during 'Bharat Bandh' in Mysuru. (DH photo)

A nationwide general strike, called by ten central trade unions, against Modi government's economic policies evoked a mixed response even as the banking and transport services remained disrupted affecting the normal life in some parts of the country on Wednesday.

Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Odisha, Punjab, Haryana, Telangana, Kerala, West Bengal and Assam witnessed disruptions in the banking and financial services with several ATMs going dry at some places.

Buses, taxis and auto-rickshaws stayed off the road in West Bengal, Kerala and Odisha. Train and bus services remained hit in several parts of Odisha.

The national capital region of the Delhi largely remained unaffected by the strike, though industrial workers joined the strike and staged a protest in the national capital.

Sporadic violence and arson took place across West Bengal. While supporters of the strike vandalised buses, staged road and rail blockades and pelted stones at police vehicles, the state police responded with firing tear gas shells, rubber bullets and baton charge.

Clashes erupted between the CPI-M activists and police in Jadavpur area of Kolkata when police resorted to baton charge to remove rail and road blockade by the CPI-M workers. A police vehicle was also vandalised by protesters. Senior CPI-M MLA and leader of the Left Legislative party Sujan Chakraborty was arrested during the protest.

Left Front workers clashed with the ruling TMC cadres opposing the strike in Lake Town and Dum Dum areas of the city.

The incidents of violence caused a verbal duel between West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and CPI-M Politburo member Mohammed Salim. While Mamata accused Left and the Congress of resorting to “thuggery” and “a cheap politics” to regain political relevance, Salim hit back accusing that it was the West Bengal chief minister who instigated the TMC cadres and police to resort to violence.

Normal life in Left ruled Kerala came to a standstill as shops, malls and even small kiosks remained shut during the day-long strike. A houseboat carrying Nobel laureate Michael Levitt was blocked for some time by the protesting trade union activist while he was cruising in the Alappuzha backwaters. Levitt was in Alappuzha with his wife as the State guest.

The strike was called by 10 major central trade unions, affiliated to opposition parties, to demand "reversal of the anti-worker, anti-people, anti-national policies of the government" including dropping of decision for the privatisation of state-owned companies Air India and Bharat Petroleum (BPCL).

In a statement, they called the nationwide strike “a grand success” with the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) claiming that about 25 crore employees and workers joined the strike in different parts of the country.

The government, however, ruled out any impact from the strike. "They have been doing this type of strikes in every one or two years with many demands," Union Minister Prakash Javadekar said.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi attacked the Modi government for its policies.

"The Modi-Shah Govt's anti-people, anti-labour policies have created catastrophic unemployment & are weakening our PSUs to justify their sale to Modi's crony capitalist friends. Today, over 25 crore workers have called for #BharatBandh2020 in protest. I salute them," he tweeted.

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