New Delhi–India’s banking sector, mining, trade and transport were hard hit on Friday as a nationwide day-long strike by Left and Congress-affiliated trade unions in protest against the NDA central government’s “anti-labour” policies, price rise and growing unemployment evoked an overall mixed response. An industry body estimated the loss at Rs 16,000-18,000 crore.
The strike took the form of a total shutdown in Left-ruled Kerala and Tripura, Congress-ruled Karnataka, as well as Odisha, Bihar and Telangana, which are governed by regional parties. Uttar Pradesh and Haryana were majorly affected, the response mixed in Andhra Pradesh, and limited impact in national capital New Delhi and financial epicentre Mumbai.
Centre of Indian Trade Unions leader Shyamal Chakraborty said across the country, 18 crore people participated in the strike.
In Delhi and Mumbai, it was almost business as usual as public transport was unaffected and offices largely remained open. Suburban trains in Mumbai ran normally while auto-rickshaws, taxis and city buses operated unaffected.
Banking and services were crippled across the country, as nationalised banks remained closed, and even most ATMs did not function in many states.
Coal production in state-owned Singareni Collieries Company Ltd in Telangana and mining in Jharkhand came to a halt, but the Eastern Coalfields Limited in West Bengal only saw a limited impact.
Industry body Assocham estimated the loss to be between Rs 16,000-18,000 crore, lamenting that India can ill-afford strikes and shutdowns as it needs to ramp up its Gross Domestic Product growth by boosting manufacturing and other key sectors like services. It said production halts in public and private sector firms along with stoppage of transport services would damage the pace of growth.
“The industry is not against fair wages and a decent living standard for the workforce. But the demand for minimum wages should be balanced enough not to lead to a high-cost economy,” said its Secretary General D.S. Rawat.
In Kerala, it was almost a complete shutdown with public transport services not operating and government offices, schools and colleges closed.
Life was also crippled in Left-governed Tripura where shops, business establishments, markets, banks and financial institutions, government offices and educational institutions were closed and vehicles were off the roads.
However, West Bengal, a Left bastion even five years back and known for its life-crippling strikes and shutdowns, for a change, only saw partial disruption. Trains, flights, metro railway, and road transport plied normally and government offices and factories recorded normal attendances, though many shops remained closed and fewer people ventured out on the streets.
In Karnataka, shops, markets, banks and factories were shut, and buses, taxis and auto-rickshaws kept off the roads, while schools and colleges in seven of the 30 districts declared holiday.
The strike, however, did not affect IT firms and biotech firms in Bengaluru, Mysuru, Mangaluru, and Hubblali.
In Odisha, public transport came to a standstill as protesters blocked roads and railway tracks, resulting in many express, passenger and freight trains getting stranded at various stations. Shops, other business establishments and some educational institutions also remained closed, while state administration was paralysed as employees did not turn up for duty.
Normal life was also hit in Bihar where the strike evoked a near-total response with shops and business establishments shut, and train and road services disrupted by activists of various trade unions.
In BJP-ruled Haryana, public transport remained off the roads leaving tens of thousands of passengers in a lurch. Private buses as well as auto-rickshaws also joined the strike.
Most of the 18 lakh government employees in Uttar Pradesh stayed away from office as the strike was supported by the state’s 250 employee unions.
Banks and commercial establishments were closed across Himachal Pradesh, but there was no impact on air, rail and road traffic.
Public transport came to a standstill in Telangana with employees of state-owned Telangana State Road Transport Corporation (TSRTC) joining the strike. Auto rickshaws too joined the strike at a few places.
In Andhra Pradesh, a section of employees of Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation (APSRTC) went on strike while others reported for duty wearing black badges.
Production at Visakhapatnam Steel Plant was hit.
In Tamil Nadu, banks did not function, while several units were shut in the thriving garment manufacturing centre Tirupur, but otherwise life was more or less unaffected.
Life was also largely normal in the hill states of Uttarakhand and Mizoram.