Strike evokes partial response; banking, transport hit (Afternoon Lead)

February 28th, 2012 - 3:11 pm ICT by IANS  

Mamata Banerjee New Delhi, Feb 28 (IANS) A 24-hour nation-wide strike by 11 trade unions Tuesday remained peaceful and evoked a mixed response, but key sectors like banking and transport took a hit in various parts of the country.

State-owned banks were mostly closed across the country as retail banking operations were the worst affected, with many of the officials absent.

Even the Reserve Bank of India saw its employees joining the stir against the government’s labour policies.

Flights were not much affected with many of the airlines operating according to schedule. Airport operations too progressed unhindered, said officials with the carriers and the Airports Authority of India.

However, Jet Airways combined 12 of its flights operating to and from Kolkata as the number of passengers dipped due to the strike

In the national capital Delhi, fewer public transport vehicles plied and many auto-rickshaws and taxis were off the roads.

Daily commuters said there were fewer state-run DTC buses on the roads and several passengers were stranded at various points in the city.

The Delhi government had enforced Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) to ensure important services like power and healthcare remain unaffected.

The strike, involving around 800,000 public sector employees, was to demand an end to contract labour, amendment of the Minimum Wages Act, an increase in gratuity payout and compulsory registration of trade unions within 45 days.

The demands also include a universal social security net for all unorganised sector workers through creation of a National Social Security Fund, enforcement of basic labour laws and stringent action against violation of labour laws.

The strike was almost total in Kerala.

In West Bengal, the streets wore a near empty look and train services were disrupted as protestors put up blockades at various railway stations. However, flights were not affected.

Train services on Eastern Railway’s Sealdah, Howrah and Asansol divisions were disrupted as strikers threw banana leaves on overhead wires leading to power failure in Canning and some other parts of the suburban network.

There were fewer vehicles on the road in Kolkata but several schools and government offices remained open following the warning given by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee that absence from duty will be treated as a break in service.

In the financial capital Mumbai, employees of banks, insurance companies, central government and local bodies as well as workers in several private industries joined the strike.

But the state government employees, railways and BEST (the city’s bus service) employees were exempted from joining on account of ongoing examinations while essential services were been kept out.

“The strike response is total, spontaneous and peaceful. This afternoon, thousands of striking workers shall march to Azad Maidan for a rally which will be addressed by top union leaders,” All India Bank Employees Association secretary Vishwas Utagi told IANS.

Normal life was also hit in Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Tripura and Odisha, even as officials had persuaded employees not to join the strike.

Labour unions claim the strike, the biggest in India since independence in 1947, was to warn the government against its “anti-labour policies”.

Besides the Left-backed unions, the pro-Congress and pro-Bharatiya Janata Party labour outfits are also supporting the strike.

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