Bharat Bandh: Violence in Bengal, protesters detained in Chennai

New Delhi: Rail and road traffic was hit in several states including Bengal, Odisha and Tamil Nadu as a 24-hour nationwide strike by ten trade unions against the central government began on Wednesday morning. Violence broke out in Bengal as a police vehicle was targeted in Jadavpur and CPM MLA Sujan Chakraborty was detained.
A scuffle was reported between the workers of CPM and Trinamool Congress workers. Around 25 crore workers are expected to participate in the countrywide protest called by the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) against what they call “anti-labour policies” of the central government. The centre’s policies and labour laws have affected 80 crore people, the CITU has said, as they press for fixed minimum wage and equal wage for equal work. The BJP-affiliated Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh is not participating in the strike.
In Bengal, several Left supporters took to train tracks in North 24 Parganas district, held a “Rail Roko protest” this morning to support the strike call by trade unions. Crude oil bombs were found on tracks, said railway police. Violence was reported in Jadavpur and Behala. The Left has accused Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee of doublespeak after the state government said it would not support the strike. In Odisha, the strike affected road and rail traffic in Talcher, Bhubaneswar, Brahmapur, Bhadrak and Kendujhargarh.
Congress’s Rahul Gandhi supported the protest in a tweet. “The Modi-Shah Govt’s anti people, anti labour policies have created catastrophic unemployment & are weakening our PSUs to justify their sale to Modi’s crony capitalist friends. Today, over 25 crore workers have called for #BharatBandh2020 in protest. I salute them,” he wrote.
The Uddhav Thackeray government in Maharashtra has supported Wednesday’s Bharat Bandh call by various trade unions, state minister Ashok Chavan said. In its mouthpiece Saamana, the ruling Sena on Wednesday said: “Six months have passed since the present (BJP) government was formed (at the centre) and neither industries nor the condition of the labourers improved.
In Chennai, where the ruling AIADMK is not supporting the protest, several protesters were detained when they tried to block roads. The government authorities have denied leaves to employees participating in the protest. Factories in Coimbatore and Tirupur are likely to be hit by protest.
The trade unions have put out a 12-point charter of common demands on pay hike, minimum wage, social security and uniform five-day week among others.
Trade union leaders have claimed the government has failed to tackle challenges posed by a crisis-ridden economy and is, instead, busy privatising and selling public sector units (PSUs). The government’s actions are “detrimental to the national interest and national development,” they said.
Apart from the CITU, nine other trade unions that are a part of the strike are: Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS), All India United Trade Union Centre (AIUTUC), Trade Union Coordination Centre (TUCC), Self, Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU), Labour Progressive Federation (LPF), United Trade Union Congress (UTUC).