Bharat bandh: Violent protests in Bengal, mixed response in other states

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Protesters on Wednesday hit the roads across the country as trade unions have called for a day-long strike as part of a Bharat bandh call. (Express Photo by Janardhan Koushik)

Protesters took to street Wednesday in response to a one-day nationwide strike called by ten central trade unions against the government's 'anti-people' policies. Transport and banking services were affected in most states while protesters were detained in West Bengal, Tripura, Andhra Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu.

In September 2019, a declaration was adopted by trade unions — INTUC, AITUC, HMS, CITU, AIUTUC, TUCC, SEWA, AICCTU, LPF, UTUC —along with various sectoral independent federations and associations to go on a nationwide strike on January 8, 2020.

Among the demands of the protesters were - increased fee structure and checking commercialisation of education, addressing agriculture sector crisis, withdrawal of Citizenship Amendment Act, saving JNU, among others.

Here is how the strikes affected different states today:

West Bengal

Incidents of violence and arson were reported from various parts of the state with buses, a police vehicle and government properties being vandalised by strikers who tried to enforce the 24-hour bandh. In various parts of the state, railway tracks and roads were blocked, affecting normal life.

Country-made bombs were found on several roads in Barasat area of the North 24 Parganas district. Crude bombs were also found on railway tracks at some places in the district.

SFI members burned a tyre outside the University of Calcutta on Wednesday. (Express photo by Shashi Ghosh)

Branches and ATMs of most of the banks in the state remained closed. Contractual workers also joined the stir. According to the All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA), some 28 lakh cheques worth over Rs 21,000 crore could not be sent for clearing.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee hit out at the Congress and the Left parties, saying those who don't have any political existence in the state are trying to ruin its economy by pursuing "cheap politics" of strikes.

Banerjee said she extends her support to the cause of the strike, which has been called against the Centre's economic policies, the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the proposed nationwide NRC, but reiterated that her party and government is against any sort of shutdown.

Punjab & Haryana

The nationwide strike received a partial response in Punjab and Haryana. Protesters blocked roads and rails tracks at a few places and also took out processions against the central government in support of their demands in Punjab, the police said.

In Punjab, buses remained off the roads at several places including Amritsar, Nawanshahr, Ludhiana, Roopnagar and Kapurthala due to state roadways employees joining the strike. The public transport was not affected much in Haryana despite a faction of state roadways joining the strike.

Protesters raise placards outside a bus stand on Wednesday. (Express photo by Gurmeet Singh)

Banking services were hit in both states and Chandigarh as employees of public sector banks observed the strike.

The call of various farmers' organisations, which are seeking implementation of Swaminathan Commission report, to stop supplies of milk, vegetables and other items as part of their call to 'rural India bandh' also failed to evoke much response in both states, except at a few places.

Rajasthan

Banking and financial operations were affected in Rajasthan where thousands of employees associated with trade unions participated in the strike.

Roadways buses, autorickshaw services were partially affected, particularly in areas like Sikar, Ganganagar and Hanumangarh. However, the strike remained peaceful in the state.

Similarly, thousands of workers of textile and cement industries, krishi mandis also participated in the strike in different parts of the state.

Tamil Nadu

At least 800 people, including 2 MPs from Left parties, were arrested from Coimbatore. The demonstration was led by CPI Lok Sabha MP, K Subbaryan, who is also Tamil Nadu AITUC president and CPI(M) MP, P R Natarajan.

The state transport services remained normal. Banking services were mildly affected but otherwise it was business as usual in the state.

Maharashtra

The strike failed to evoke much response in Maharashtra with transport and banking services remaining largely unaffected in many districts as well as in Mumbai.

 

Trade union joint action committee protest at Azad maidan in Mumbai. (Express photo by Nirmal Harindran)

Trade union leader Ajit Abhyankar, however, claimed that at least 15,000 people affiliated to various Central trade unions, Bhartiya Kamgar Sena, posts, banks, and other government establishments participated in a public rally outside the district collectorate in Pune. He also claimed that the institutions which were working smoothly employed only contractual employees.

Farmer leader and Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana president Raju Shetti led a protest on the Sangli-Kolhapur road on Wednesday afternoon.

Uttar Pradesh

About 15 lakh power sector employees and engineers across the country went on strike against the Centre's proposed amendments to the Electricity Act as well as other privatisation policies of the government, which they say are against the interest of the consumers and employees.

The maximum participation of employees and engineers was from Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, Telangana, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Punjab, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh , Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnatka, Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, Tripura.

Gujarat

Banking services were partially hit in Gujarat on Wednesday due to the strike. However, the strike has had no impact on the operations of the State Bank of India, Indian Overseas Bank and Bank of Baroda in the state, as majority of the employees of these banks are associated with other unions, which have not joined the strike, he said.

Transport services are absolutely normal across the state while commercial establishments also remained open. State farmers also give the strikes a miss.

Telangana

Banking services across Telangana were severely affected due to the strike. Operations in all public sector banks except SBI were affected.

The strike by as many as three lakh employees and workers was underway with the participation of members of various trade unions in the state, senior leader of Telangana CPI, Sudhakar said.

Andhra Pradesh

Leaders of the Congress, CPI and CPM were taken into custody as they staged a sit-in protest on the highway outside the RTC bus station in Vijayawada.

Reports said employees stayed off duties in various public sector undertakings, mostly in Visakhapatnam. Most of the banks remained shut.

Assam

Normal life was hit in Assam on Wednesday as vehicles remained off the roads and markets were shut due to the strike

Shops and markets kept their shutters down, though pharmacies were open, while educational institutions, especially schools remained closed.

The scheduled examinations in colleges and higher educational institutions were, however, conducted normally.

Public transport, both local and long-distance, kept off the roads. Petrol pumps were also shut with customers having to return without getting fuel for their vehicles.

Most banks also remained closed across the state, though some were open with thin attendance of staff and customers.

Tripura

The nationwide strike called by the trade unions evoked a mixed response in Tripura where most shops, banks and offices remained closed even as government offices and traffic across the state functioned as usual.

Most shops in Tripura remained shut due to the trade union strike. (Express photo)

Additional Director General of Tripura Police Rajiv Singh informed the indianexpress.com no major violence occurred during the strike in the state apart from some clashes at Kailashahar in Unakoti district where over 130 people were detained including — 75 from CPI(M) and 55 from BJP.

Karnataka

In Karnataka’s Madikeri, a KSRTC bus was damaged due to stone-pelting. However, bus operations were normal across the state.

(With inputs from PTI)