The district-level hartal and general strike called by the Save FACT Action Committee paralysed normal life in the city on Monday. The agitators also blocked trains at South Kalamassery.
The hartal, called in protest against the delay in clearing the `991-crore revival package for the fertiliser company had the support of CPM district committee and almost all trade unions, including the CITU and the INTUC.
The strike paralysed life in the city with shops remained closed and public transport affected. Those who reached Kochi from neighbouring districts were stranded at railway stations and bus stands. Tourists also had a hard time and many were seen walking to their destinations.
Though the KSRTC conducted services, buses were not available on all routes, as a section of employees kept away from work in support of the hartal. While long-distance services were conducted, city services by ‘Venad’ and low-floor buses were cancelled. “Yet by evening we conducted 27 services against the usual number of 56. Services were conducted on Cherthala, Aluva and Kakkanad routes. The collection was very low as there were not enough passengers,” said a KSRTC employee at the control room. Boat services were also not conducted.
Meanwhile, CITU leaders claimed that the hartal was a success and received massive support. Only a few private vehicles were found plying on the roads. “The hartal affected work at International Container Transshipment Terminal, Vallarpadam, BPCL- Kochi Refinery, Cochin Port, taxi services to and from the Cochin International Airport and Munabam fishing harbour. All employees of FACT, except the few engaged in essential services, took part in the strike. Those serving on officers’ post also stayed away from work,” said K Chandran Pillai, convener of the Action Committee. Employees of other public sector undertakings such as TELK, KAMCO, Traco, HIL, HMT, TCC, KBPS, MPI and Government Press also took part in the strike.
The agitating labourers picketed the Bangalore-Kanyakumari Express near the level-crossing at South Kalamassery. Police had to arrest the agitators to clear the tracks. The labourers who took part in picketing also took out a motor rally, carrying banners and placards. A public meeting was also held near the level crossing which was inaugurated by P Rajeev MP. INTUC state secretary V P George presided over the meet. CPM district secretary C M Dinesh Mani, Action Committee convener K Chandran Pillai and leaders of various trade unions spoke.