The two-day nationwide strike called by a joint forum of central trade unions has effectively morphed into hartal-like conditions in Left Front-ruled Kerala on the first day on Monday with commercial establishments shuttered down and public transport largely keeping away.

The striking unions have clarified that they will not prevent private vehicles from taking to the streets but not many of them were plying on the roads at least on Monday morning, as per reports coming here from various districts.

Rural areas to be hit, too

Essential services related to banking, transportation, railways and electricity are likely to be impacted. Rural areas too are expected to be hit with informal workers engaged in farming and other sectors joining the protest. Among those who served strike notice are coal, steel, oil, telecom, postal, income tax, banks and insurance workers.

Public utility Kerala State Road Transport Corporation are operating on some routes under police protection but this would be hardly of help to long-distance commuters. According to the unions, even those operating under protection would be forced to stop services in the face of stiff protests.

Employees are blocked

There have been reports to the effect that unions have blocked entry to employees reporting in offices, both private and public, at some places. While work at government offices have come to a grinding halt, reports from Kochi said that the striking unions shooed away employees reporting for work at BPCL.

In a similar manner, employees were forced to return at the Kinfra Park at Kanjikode in Palakkad. Representatives of the unions said they merely clarified they requested employees to cooperate after explaining to them circumstances under which the strike call has been given. No force or coercion was used against them.