Strike total in Ker,business as usual in other southern states

(EDS: Recasts, adds details) Chennai/Thiruvananthapuram/Bengaluru, Jan 8 (PTI) The nationwide strike called by trade unions pressing for a charter of demands, besides protesting Centre's 'anti-people' policies, remained total in Kerala with even a houseboat carrying a Nobel laureate being blocked for sometime while it was largely business as usual in other southern states.

Normal life came to a standstill in Left-ruled Kerala where shops, malls and even small kiosks remained shut, roads wore a deserted look as public transport services kept away.

The strike comes a day ahead of the Global Investors Meet meet in Kochi to be inaugurated by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Thursday.

In an embarassment to the state government, a houseboat carrying Nobel laureate Michael Levitt, who was here as a state guest, was blocked for some time while he was cruising in the Alappuzha backwaters by protesting trade union activists.

Levitt, who received the 2013 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, was in Alappuzha with his wife and was stopped by the protesters near Kainakary.

State Tourism minister Kadakampally Surendran blamed anti-social elements for the incident and said strong action would be taken against those who created the blockade.

A case has been registered on the complaint of the houseboat owners.

The tourism sector had been exempted from the 24-hour strike, which began at midnight on Tuesday.

The strike did not affect the Sabariamala pilgrims and the Lord Ayyappa temple witnessed a huge rush of devotees.

Shops, malls, hotels and other commercial establishments were also shut across the state and private and Kerala State Transport Corporation (KSRTC) buses, autorickshaws and taxis stayed away from the roads.

Railway sources said train services were unaffected by the strike and there were no protests at railway stations.

Schools and colleges had declared a holiday on Wednesday and three major universities in the state postponed all its examinations.

The shutdown also did not impact IT hubs of the state-- Technopark in Thiruvananthapuram and Infopark in Kochi but the Koratti Infopark at Thrissur saw around 200 employees being blocked by protesters from entering their workplace.

With the trade unions of the ruling CPI(M)-led LDF and opposition Congress-headed UDF participating in the strike, most of the government staff did not turn up at the Secretariat here.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and other ministers also did not attend office.

Banking operations also took a hit as most PSU bank branches remained shut.

A Kochi report said functioning of various public sector units-- Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd (BPCL), Cochin Shipyard Ltd and Kochi port--were not affected.

In Tamil Nadu, the strike made little impact as bus and railway services were not affected. While shops and commercial establishments remained open, banking services were partially affected.

Cheque clearing and ATM services bore the brunt.

Traffic came to a halt at the arterial Anna Salai where demonstrations were held.

In Karnataka too, the strike did not affect normal life. While government buses including the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) were plying as usual, train services remained unaffected.

State minister for primary and secondary education S Suresh Kumar said the strike was a total failure.

Schools, colleges and business establishments also functioned.

Barring banking services being hit, it was business as usual in Telangana.

In Andhra Pradesh, leaders of the Congress, CPI and CPI (M) were taken into custody as they staged a sit-in outside the RTC bus station in Vijayawada.

Reports said employees stayed off duties in various public sector undertakings, mostly in Visakhapatnam.

Most banks remained shut.

Normal life was affected in the Congress-ruled Puducherry as fleet operators kept buses off the roads responding to the strike call.

All shops and establishments except medical shops remained closed.

Attendance in government offices however was reported to be normal while industrial units suspended operations in various industrial estates.

Reports from Tirupati said police prevented youth organisations from carrying the effigy of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a 'shava yatra' (funeral procession).

The central trade unions organised the protest against labour reforms, FDI, disinvestment, corporatisation and privatisation policies of the government. The demands included minimum wage and social security for the working class. PTI RRT TGB LGK UD GDK DBV COR VIJ VGN SA BN BN BN