NEW DELHI: Normal life in several parts of the country was affected today by the one-day nationwide strike by trade unions with public transport, banking and mining being among the most-hit, while protesting workers were detained in Haryana, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh.
The central trade unions said the strike was successful as around 18 crore workers came on streets to support the agitation, despite only partial impact in some states like Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan.
Industry body Assocham pegged the cost to the economy at Rs 16,000-18,000 crore from the one-day stir, call for which was given by ten central unions to protest against what they called the government's "indifference" to workers demands for better wages and facilities and the "anti-worker" changes in labour laws.
The government said sectors such as railways, civil aviation and major ports remained "unaffected", while banking and insurance, coal, telecom and defence production were "partially affected" and transport and steel saw only marginal impact.
While the agitation paralysed day to day work in states like Kerala, Odisha, Tripura, Assam and Telangana, the impact was quite visible in Andhra Pradesh, Manipur, Haryana, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh, claimed Trade Union Coordination Committee (TUCC) General Secretary S P Tiwari.
He said: "The impact was partial in states like Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan but the life remained normal in metropolitan cities of Mumbai and Delhi. However the strike is successful as around 18 crore workers came on streets to support the agitation."
Central of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) Tapan Kumar Sen said: "The repose to the strike was massive and unprecedented. Workers actively participated in the strike despite the use of state repression including the use of police force in some states like West Bengal, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Assam etc."
CITU said in a statement that Trinamool government in West Bengal used the brutal force of its police as well as its goons to physically attack the workers on strike. There were clashes in several districts as workers resisted the use of force.
It further said, "Section 144 was imposed in several industrial areas as in Gurgaon, Faridabad in Haryana, Nodia etc. 12 workers of Maruti Suzuki and 22 transport union leaders were arrested in Gurgaon; police went to workers’ residential areas in Gurgaon to coerce contract workers who were on strike, to join work."
It added: "The West Bengal transport minister directed the MD of Water Transport to suspend the striking employees. TMC goons attacked processions of striking workers, youth, women and even journalists in Burdwan and many other places."
All India Coal Workers Federation D D Ramanadan claimed that "dispatch, production and transport of coal has come a standstill" with operations in CIL subsidiaries BCCL, CCL, ECL and CMPDI badly hit. "Around 300 workers have been arrested in Rajmahal and Chitra mines areas."
"There has been instance of arrest in West Bengal and Haryana. We came to know that 12 people have been arrested in Manesar while seven were detained in West Bengal. The strike this time has greater impact than last year's agitation on September 2," All India Trade Union Congress Secretary D L Sachdev told PTI.
In West Bengal, nearly 270 bandh supporters, including Siliguri mayor Ashok Bhattacharya, were arrested. "Buses of Punjab Roadways and Haryana Roadways are almost off the Road. More than half of the buses of Uttar Pradesh Road Transport are also off the road. But DTC's buses are plying while Delhi Metro is also functional," Sachdev said.
Over 100 agitators were taken into preventive custody in Visakhapatnam, where the strike evoked a good response in the industrial areas of Gajuwaka and Autonagar. Auto sector was also hit as workers remained off duty from some of plants of Tata Motors, Hero Moto Corp and Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India.
Clearing operations at the Reserve Bank was hit with the union leaders claiming that 26 lakh cheques totalling value of Rs 19,000 crore were held up as the staff did not report for duty.
"Clearing services has been impacted. About 26 lakh cheques worth Rs 19,000 crore has been held up. Out of the 7.5 lakh employees, five lakh remained off duty. Cash transaction was affected and ATMs ran dry at several place. Government transaction also remained affected", claimed AIBEA General Secretary C H Venkatachalam.
All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) said, "While strike was visibly complete in Transport, Coal, Oil Refineries and Marketing, Automobile, Banking and Insurance, postal services, telecommunications, private transport sectors. The Centre as well as the State Govt employees in most states and Delhi participated in the strike."
It said that in states like Odisha, Telangana, Kerala, Assam, Jharkhand, Manipur, Karnataka, Puducherry, Tripura and Bihar, it was bundh like situation where even markets remained closed. The scheme workers overwhelmingly participated in the strike action everywhere.