Two-day strike to hit public transport, banking in India

The two-day strike has been called by all the trade unions together against UPA government’s economic policies leading to price rise, disinvestment and contract labour.

NEW DELHI: Another massive all-India bandh on Wednesday and Thursday (February 20 and 21) is set to affect normal life in the country as public transport is set to stay off the roads and banks are also expected to remain closed for the two days.

The two-day strike has been called by all the trade unions together against UPA government’s economic policies leading to price rise, disinvestment and contract labour. The other demands of the unions include implementaion of labour laws, putting an end to Special Economic Zones, filling up vacant posts in government jobs and withdrawal of foreign direct investment in the retail sector.

On Monday, trade union leaders met a four-member government committee comprising defence minister A K Antony, food and agriculture minister Sharad Pawar and labour minister Mallikarjun Kharge.

After the meeting, CITU president A K Padmanabhan was quoted as saying by Times of India, "The government has nothing to offer. We are going ahead with the strike. We expect it to be hugely successful."

Trade unions claim around 10 lakh bank employees will strike work in nearly 90,000 bank branches across the country.

Most bank unions are supporting the strike called by United Forum of Bank Unions consisting of nine national unions, including AIBEA, NCBE, BEFI, INBEF, NOBW and AIBOC in support of their demand. Branches of public sector banks are expected to be non-functional and cheque clearing activity will be hit.

The government has expressed its disappointment at a section of the bank employees joining the two-day strike. In a PIB release, the government said, "Prime Minister of India has made an appeal to the Trade Unions not to go on strike. Government has also set up a Group of Ministers to talk to the Trade Union leaders. So far as bank employees are concerned, there is really no reason at all to join the strike. None of the main points contained in the charter of demands has any connection with the bank employees."

The government added bank employees have social security cover and hold regular jobs that carry attractive scales of pay. 

The strike has been called jointly by AITUC,  Bhartiya Majdoor Sangh (BMS), Indian National Trade union Congress (INTUC),  Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS), Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), All India United Trade Union Centre (AIUTUC) and other such bodies.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had on Sunday evening appealed to the central trade unions to withdraw their call for the countrywide general Strike on Wednesday and Thursday.

“Such a strike would lead to avoidable loss to our economy and inconvenience to the public through disruption of services,” he said.

Industry associations said that the two-day national strike is likely to cause a "a substantial loss" to the Indian economy.