Issuing a clarion call against the Modi government, an estimated 20 crore people from organised sector, both public and private, including workers working in multinational companies, scheme workers and the unorganised sector successfully carried out a two-day nationwide strike on January 8-9. They were protesting against the “anti-labour, anti-people and anti-national policies” of the BJP-led Central Government.
The strike was a part of the programme adopted by the National Convention of Workers, called jointly by ten central trade unions in September 2018. The RSS-affiliated Bhartiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) is the only central union that did not participate in the strike action.
The unions called the strike because the Modi government has been ignoring their 12-point charter of demands that raises issues of unemployment, price rise, minimum wages, pension, increasing contractualisation, disinvestment, universal social security cover, strict compliance with labour laws and FDI.
The strike saw joint trade union rallies in every state capital and even in district centres across the country. In the national capital, Delhi, workers, students and youth marched from Mandi House to Parliament Street, raising their 12-point charter of demands. Employees and teachers in Delhi University and teachers and students of Jawahar Lal Nehru University also went on strike in solidarity and joined the rally. Due to the workers strike, industrial areas in and around Delhi NCR region came to a grinding halt. Even multinational companies such as Coca Cola, Toyota, Volvo, Samsonite, Crompton, CEAT, etc saw a complete shutdown.
The banking and insurance sector came to a standstill all across the country during the strike. Electricity generation and distribution, coal extraction and movement, non-coal mining, iron ore mining and steel production, got affected since the workers actively responded to the strike call. Oil extraction, refining and marketing, along with LPG in entire Eastern and Northern sector was completely paralysed. Even supply of aviation fuel was affected, resulting in cancellation of many flights. Transport sector, including road and rail, was affected resulting in cancellation of many trains. Railway workers and defence sector employees joined in solidarity everywhere.
In Maharashtra, the two-day strike was marked by rallies, dharnas, human chains, rasta roko protests, rail roko protests, torchlight processions at night and even people’s poetry recital before the collectorate. BEST, the Mumbai city road transport service provided by the Municipal Corporation, recorded complete close down.
Kerala, Assam, Odisha, Puducherry, Manipur and Meghalaya witnessed a complete shutdown during the strike. While Goa and Bihar, which were on industrial strike on January 8, experienced a bandh-like situation during the second day. The district centres in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh were impacted.
In Tamil Nadu, a highly industrialised state, huge demonstrations were conducted in many pockets; unions from various sectors like transport, postal, banking, IT, etc. participated in the strike; many students and youth organisations also came out in solidarity with the striking workers. In Bengal, the strike remained largely effective across the state. At Lal Chowk in Srinagar, hundreds of activists of various unions across Kashmir thronged to stage a protest in support of the general strike.
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