Maruti, Hero Motocorp workers not to report for work today
Key services, including banking and transport, were affected as the two-day general strike by 11 central trade unions and several independent federations began on Wednesday.
While States such as Kerala, Bihar and Tripura were completely shut, the response was mixed in other States. There were reports of sporadic violence and lathi-charge in some areas, leading to the death of two workers in Haryana and Noida.
Meanwhile, production is likely to be affected in the auto hub of Gurgaon, as 50 unions will stay off work on Thursday, including in Maruti, Suzuki Motorcyle and Hero Motocorp, trade union leaders said at a press conference at the INTUC headquarters here.
“We had a meeting with representatives of different unions in the region and we have agreed to go on a one-day strike tomorrow in support of the central unions. There will not be any production tomorrow both at Maruti’s Gurgaon and Manesar plants,” Maruti Udyog Kamgar Union General Secretary, Kuldeep Jhangu, told a news agency.
CPI leader and AITUC General-Secretary Gurudas Dasgupta said the response to the strike was “unprecedented”, specifying that it was not a ‘bandh’.
Referring to the Government’s claim that it had tried to reach out, Daspgupta said, it was a “made-up show”. He said it was ‘“shameful’ that four Ministers were directed by the Prime Minister to meet us only on February 13, of which, the most important one, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram was “conspicuously absent”.
Meanwhile, industry chamber Assocham said the losses from the ‘bandh’ could go up to Rs 26,000 crore, as it had a ‘damaging effect’ on industrial activity and the services sector.
“In most of the industrial States and enclaves the attendance was poor leading to curtailing of productions shifts. With city transport being affected adversely, the footfalls in the retail trading markets also considerably declined, even though some of the markets remained opened,” it added.
Our Mumbai Bureau adds: Banking services across the country were severely affected as nearly 10 lakh bank employees and officers struck work on the first day of a two-day strike called by central trade unions.
With employees and officers not reporting at branches and administrative offices, operations in public sector banks, regional rural banks and co-operative banks were impacted. Many branches did not open for customers.
With only private sector banks and foreign banks working, just one-fourth of the daily average volume of about 36 lakh cheques across the country would have been presented for clearing due to the strike. Similarly, even in value terms, only a fourth of the average daily value of transactions amounting to about Rs 26,000 crore would have come up for clearing, say bankers.
Goods transport on trunk routes unaffected
Goods transportation on inter-State trunk roads across the country was fairly smooth except in port cities of Kerala, Maharashtra and Bengal, said Indian Foundation of Transport Research and Training (IFTRT), based on its track of 70 trunk routes.
The Road Transport Unions and Railway Union have supported the strike “in principle” but have not stopped operations.
IFTRT, a transport sector tracking agency, pointed out that workers in truck transport – drivers, helpers and loaders – are not organised under unions despite low wages and lack of social protection. The transport union comprises fleet-owners and transport firms.
Shivgopal Mishra, General Secretary, All India Railwaymen’ Federation, explained that for Railways to participate in a strike, the call has to on for at least 72 hours or indefinitely.
“Our running staff work on shifts or rotation. So, for strike calls of below 72 hours, only partial staff can take part in a strike.”
In National Capital Region, Noida witnessed violence as some trucks were burnt, said IFTRT.
Otherwise, the industrial areas in Delhi, neighbouring Haryana, Rajasthan and UP were peaceful as over 27 truck unions worked during the day to supply to industrial units, agricultural produce marketing committees, milk producing units and wholesale markets, it added.
“Loading/unloading and booking/ delivery of cargo was fairly normal, although the transport operators had cautioned their truck crew to remain on alert in event of any untoward incident feared by them on account of trade union strike call.”
The trucks at rail pitheads across the country brought consignments for dispatches through railways and carried return cargo from the rail stations to the delivery points, it said.
The booking and despatches of parcels by the courier firms were not disturbed by the strike call, though courier companies warned customers of potential delay in deliveries if there was any escalation on Thursday, the second day of agitation.