TRADE UNIONS TRADE WELL THEIR DAYLONG NATIONWIDE STRIKE

As is the norm, Arun Jaitley dismissed yesterday’s nationwide strike. PTI quotes him saying – ‘Bharat bandh has marginal or inconsequential impact.’

His reaction was on the expected line. After all, a government is not expected to laud a protest event against it – certainly not in the current political scenario prevailing in India. And Arun Jaitely is one of its senior-most politicians and ministers.

But, then, let’s look at what reports basically said about yesterday’s nationwide strike. Here are some headlines.

The Indian Express – Bandh halts life, spurs violence

The Times of India – TU strike takes a toll on services; 1000 held as Bengal turns warn zone

Hindustan Times – Trade union strike halts public transport, shuts factories

Mail Today – Bengal worst hit as bandh slows down life

The Hindu – Strike hits banking, transport services

The Economic Times – Strike hits normal life, coal output; Violent clashes in West Bengal

BBC News – Indian workers strike over Modi labour reforms

Reuters – Millions strike in India to protest against Modi’s labor reforms

AFP – In huge show of strength, lakhs of workers go on strike over ‘anti-labour’ reforms

CNNMoney – India’s workers strike to challenge Modi

Wall Street Journal – India on Strike: In Pictures

These headlines, and many more, tell what happened really, that, normal life was badly affected by the daylong strike called by 10 central trade unions, many state level trade unions and supported by unions of employees of banks and insurance companies.

Public transport was badly struck in states like West Bengal, Kerala, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Punjab, Haryana and Delhi, and also Meghalaya.

The Hindu said the ‘shutdown disrupted life and business in many states’. ‘Banking, transportation, postal and shipping services were the worst hit’, the report wrote further.

The Indian Express reported the similar outcome of the bandh – “a daylong nationwide strike called by 10 central trade unions on Wednesday disrupted normal life in various parts of the country with coal production, banking operations and transport services being hit the most. The day also witnessed violent clashes in Odisha and West Bengal.”

The Times of India observed the same, and so the reports by other dailies and national and international news agencies. Detailed articles carried essay sort of photographs that were available to the camera lenses in plenty.

As most of the trade unions are Left-oriented and as the RSS/BJP led Bhartiya Majdoor Sangh (BMS), a large outfit, had walked out of the strike, a natural curiosity was about the extent of the success of the bandh. And if we, indeed, see the daylong protest event as a ‘show of strength’ as the Times of India wrote, it was totally successful, even if it didn’t prove out to be the largest one in the nation’s history as the unions had claimed.

If Delhi was any indication, where normal life of citizens was badly affected due to non-availability of transportation means on roads, we can gauge how troublesome the life would have been for those in other parts of the country who would have chosen to venture out or had to venture out on the day.

In many states, public transportation means were completely shut. Activities like banking, insurance, mining, shipping and even civil defence were struck by protesting employees or by their ‘absence’. Schools and colleges were closed on the day in some states.

Yes, we can say the ‘September 2 Bharat Bandh’ was traded well by the trade unions to ‘show their strength’. Protesters (and workers) bought the deal that was being promoted in the name of opposing the reported anti-labour policy changes (proposed) of the government.

While we may debate on the nature of our ‘mixed economy, time’s requirement and government’s decisions (political decisions) in that context’, we need to accept that the Left-oriented trade unions still hold sway over a larger sections of workers across the country even if the Left-front political parties are fast becoming ‘politically’ obsolete in India’s politics.

That also gives them some points to ponder over – that why is that happening?

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

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GETTING STARTED ON A ‘BHARAT BANDH’ DAY..

September 2 was a general strike day by 10 central trade unions of the country. The unions claim ‘some 15 crore members are on their membership rolls’ and since they were preparing for it for long, in fact the strike was earlier proposed in July, the normal life was expected to be affected.

And it was so, at least in Delhi – as personally experienced by me.

I took longer to reach my work place today than the usual 30 minutes because public transportation was badly struck with Delhi facing burden of dual strikes – one by the trade unions and other by the union of auto drivers who were protesting against the government of Arvind Kerjrilwal opposing affordable taxi services.

So, I didn’t get any auto-rickshaw – with legitimate fare.

The strike was comprehensive and very few auto-rickshaws were on the road. Some were making use of the day, that happens on a day like this, by charging customers sky high fares. So, if I pay some 50 bucks daily for the ride I take to the Delhi Metro station, today, the drivers were demanding 150-200 Rs.

Buses were less in frequency. Parking slots for auto-rickshaws were full with vehicles. Some were running their vehicles without passengers. Doing so, with their meters covered, was probably their mode of protest.

It was coupled with the larger nationwide strike of the trade unions. And the daylong ‘Bharat Bandh’ was also supported by different associations of bank and insurance employees. So, it was much less than usual activity out on the stretch of the road that I daily take to my work place.

Overall transportation channel looked subdued. There were less people on the road, but more in the Delhi Metro trains – which again showed how badly the strike had affected it. Though I did not come across any violent activity in my part of the country, the strike was marred with reports of violence from many states.

The stretch, from my house to my work place, usually 30 minutes long, took around an hour today. As I could not get any auto-rickshaw, I had to opt for a nearer Delhi Metro station where a rickshaw-puller could take me. Paying somewhat more that he demand on a day like this didn’t pinch me because he was sweating it out on a hot and humid day.

Though, inside of the Delhi Metro train didn’t look like there was any significant ‘Bharat Bandh’ in India’s national capital – the rush at lean hour of the day was due to the sluggish public transport on Delhi’s roads. Whenever there is some sort of problem of Delhi’s road transport, the rush in Delhi Metro becomes manifold. Let’s see how the strike spanned across the country.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/