Government machinery in Kerala appeared to have come to a grinding halt on the first day of the two-day nationwide strike called by central trade unions with only 32 out of the 4,828 employees reporting for work at the government secretariat on Monday.
Public transport too had come to a standstill.
Shops and establishments chose to shutter down which effectively turned the strike into an undeclared hartal throwing normal life out of gear. Essential services like banking, transportation, railways and electricity were also impacted badly.
Public utility Kerala State Road Transport Corporation operated some routes under police protection but this was of hardly of help to long-distance commuters.
Reports suggest that unions have blocked entry to staff reporting for office in offices, both private and public, at some places.
In Kochi, banks, business establishments, trading houses, wholesale markets, hotels remained closed. A spokesman for the Bank Employees Federation of India said that banking operations came to a standstill with employees from the public, private and cooperative banks participated in the strike.
The functioning of BPCL was not hit by the strike, but the movement of products was halted. Cochin Refinery Workers Association affiliated to CITU joined the strike despite a High Court order against such participation.
In a similar manner, employees were forced to return at the Kinfra Park at Kanjikode in Palakkad. Representatives of the unions have clarified that they merely requested employees to cooperate after explaining to them circumstances that led to the strike.
MP Sukumaran Nair of Centre for Green Technology Management, said the two-day general strike reflects the common sentiment shared not only by the workers but also, to a large extent, by the general public from different walks of life in contemporary India.
According to the organisers, they have proposed a slogan ‘Save People, Save Nation’ to warn the Centre whose promises have evenly drifted in practice.
Two of the 12 demands raised by the unions insist on a change, rather a reversal, of the economic policies followed by the government. The first one is to increase the quantum of allocation towards public investment in agriculture, education, healthcare and such essential public services to revamp the pandemic stricken economy.
“The other demand to stall privatisation is very much pertinent and has been in the air for over three decades ever since the government decided to liberalise the national economy. Today, privatisation of public institutions and sale of national assets have attained significant dimensions with the government deciding to go for massive and liberal privatisation through the proposed National Monetisation Pipeline (NMP),” Nair said.