The nationwide general strike in India has affected West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura almost completely and other States partially with industrial establishments remaining closed across the country and the functioning of the public sector banks was hit at most places.
“The strike was spontaneous with eight crore people participating in it. It is an expression of deep indignation of the masses against the pernicious economic and labour policies of the United Progressive Alliance government,” Gurudas Dasgupta, general secretary of the All-India Trade Union Congress, told reporters.
The strike was against the price rise, deepening and widening poverty, rising unemployment and falling real wages, in the face of increasing Gross Domestic Product growth rate, increasing violation of the labour laws and outsourcing as well as privatisation.
About 250 Air Force personnel were deployed at 21 airports to maintain safety and fire services as the Airports Authority of India employees joined the strike. Air traffic was not affected, barring cancellation of flights to Kolkata.
The employees are also opposing further privatisation or leasing out the AAI airports, better pay and job security for those in the Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Nagpur airports.
Banking services and trade settlements were partially hit as bank employees affiliated to Left leaning unions also supported the strike to protest merger of state-owned banks and outsourcing of non-core activities. Operations in about 40,000 branches were either fully or partially affected as employees went on strike.
“This should be a warning bell for the government because if it does not respond, we will prolong this agitation. The Sponsoring Committee of Trade Unions will meet again in September first week to chalk out further course of action,” Mr. Dasgupta said.
The unions say the strike affected industrial areas, banks, insurance, coal, power, steel, tea plantations, telecom, including the Information Technology, and other sectors.
“The government should realise that all the friends of American President George Bush are gone and it should be ready to face the same fate if it tries to suppress the masses,” Centre of Indian Trade Unions president M.K. Pandhe said. The trade union leaders claimed that life was significantly disrupted in Bihar, Jharkhand, Assam, Manipur and Goa also while there was partial disruption in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, Orissa and Karnataka.
Apart from the AITUC and CITU, the strike was supported by the Hind Mazdoor Sabha, the All India Council of Central Trade Unions, the All India United Trade Union Centre and the United Trade Union Centre, apart from all India federations of banks, insurance, railways, defence, telecom, airline and airports.
The State and Central government employees also extended their support.