Bharat Bandh: Trade unions claim success, govt differs; Assocham puts loss at Rs 18,000 cr

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New Delhi | Published: September 3, 2016 6:26:23 AM

Friday’s pan-India strike called by a clutch of trade unions to press their 12-point charter of demands evoked moderate to nil response in most parts of the country, while it indeed hit industrial activity and even normal life hard in some states, notably Kerala and Tripura.

AssochamWhile no official estimate was immediately available of the losses the agitation caused to the economy, industry body Assocham said it could be around Rs 18,000 crore. (Source: IE)

Friday’s pan-India strike called by a clutch of trade unions to press their 12-point charter of demands evoked moderate to nil response in most parts of the country, while it indeed hit industrial activity and even normal life hard in some states, notably Kerala and Tripura. According to multiple sources from the government and industry, apart from the two Left-ruled states, the strike had a significant adverse impact on industrial production and businesses in Karnataka, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh and in some pockets in Tamil Nadu, Telangana and West Bengal.

While the labour ministry’s preliminary estimate put the overall absenteeism across sectors at less than 20%, sources from the ministry admitted that mining and financial services got crippled. While no official estimate was immediately available of the losses the agitation caused to the economy, industry body Assocham said it could be around Rs 18,000 crore.

The RSS-affiliated Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh did not join the strike, in the light of the government’s decision to raise the minimum wage for the lowest-paid workers by 42% and assurances on its other key demands.

bandh“Though the strike impacted sectors like transport, coal and non-coal mines, banking and insurance, steel and cement, among others, the overall response could be termed as moderate as only 16-18% of the country’s workforce failed to report for work without prior intimation on Friday,” said a senior labour ministry official.

The labour ministry data, complied with feedback from across the country, showed that apart from the states mentioned above, the impact of the strike was felt only in Jharkhand, Odisha and Uttarakhand, while in other states, including the national capital region, normalcy prevailed.

Among industrial activities, the non-coal mining sector was the worst hit, where only 39% people reported for work. Banking and insurance was also hit as almost half of the workforce remained absent in the country. As much as 92% of the financial sector employees in Odisha skipped duty. The coal sector was also hit with only 49% workforce reporting for duty. The steel sector saw an average of 55% attendance, labour ministry data showed, even as PSU SAIL claimed 94% of its over 80,000 employees turned up. “The income tax department, however, surprised us all. Barring senior officials, hardly any presence was there in country’s I-T offices. Nothing like this has happened before,” a labour ministry official said.

The impact of the strike was also noticed in state-run telecom firms such as BSNL, MTNL and in defence factories, power and cement firms, but had negligible impact in the ports and aviation sectors. The Delhi government invoked ESMA against the strike call by nurses.

The central trade unions, however, claimed that the strike was the “biggest ever” with employees from all sectors of the economy — organised and unorganised, public sector and private sector, central and state government departments, and scheme workers — participating. “Workers actively participated in the strike despite the use of state repression including the use of police force in some states like West Bengal, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, etc. The Trinamool government in West Bengal used the brutal force of its police to physically attack the workers on strike,” CITU general secretary Tapan Sen said in a statement. The strike was total in Kerala and Tripura, he said.

The CTUs were demanding banning speculative trade in the commodities market, containing of unemployment, strict enforcement of basic labour laws, universal social security cover for all workers, minimum wages of Rs 18,000 per month, assured pension of no less than Rs 3,000 per month for the entire working population, stoppage of PSU disinvestment, removal of all ceilings on payment and eligibility of bonus, complete reversal of allowing FDI in defence and railways and abandoning the plan to amend labour laws.

The government tried to dissuade workmen from resorting to the strike by raising minimum wage for unskilled non-agricultural workers for C category areas by 42% and promising to assess the feasibility of ESIC benefit to scheme volunteers, but that failed to break the ice.

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