A 48-hour Bharat Bandh or a nationwide strike called by various trade unions to protest government policies began in several states on Monday, affecting normal life in some areas.
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Roads in Left-ruled Kerala, where trade unions hold considerable sway, wore a deserted look, and only a few private vehicles could be seen. Buses run by the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) were off the roads.
However, emergency services have been excluded from the strike. The Kerala High Court has also restrained five unions at the Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) from participating. The police in the state have made arrangements for those who need emergency travel facilities to reach railway stations and hospitals.
In West Bengal, even though the trade unions could be seen protesting on the streets, the state government has asked all offices to remain open and ordered employees to report for duty. Members from the Left Front gathered in huge numbers and blocked railway tracks at the Jadavpur Railway Station in Kolkata.
The call for the nationwide strike was given by a joint forum of central trade unions, to protest against government policies affecting workers, farmers, and people. Other than the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), almost all other trade unions are participating in the strike, news agency ANI reported.
Amarjeet Kaur, All Indian Trade Union Congress General Secretary, told news agency PTI that they are expecting participation of over 20 crore formal and informal workers with mass mobilisation of workers across the country. Workers in the entire coal mining belt in Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh have joined the protest, she said.
The bank unions are participating in the strike to protest against the government’s plan to privatise public sector banks, as well as the Banking Laws Amendment Bill 2021.
A number of banks, including the State Bank of India, have issued a statement informing customers that banking services may be impacted on Monday and Tuesday.
Apart from banks, workers from various other sectors such as steel, oil, telecom, coal, postal, income tax, copper, and insurance are expected to participate in the strike.
The unions in railways and defence sector are expected to make mass mobilisation in support of strike at several hundreds of spots. Roadways, transport workers and electricity workers have decided to join the strike.
The Power Ministry advised all the state-run utilities and other agencies to be on high alert and ensure round-the-clock electricity supply and stability of the national grid. Power supply to those engaged in essential services such as hospitals, defence, and railways must be ensured, the ministry’s advisory said and suggested setting up of a 24×7 control room for information dissemination and handling any kind of contingency.