Essential services, including transport and banking, were crippled in several states as the two-day Bharat Bandh announced by several central trade unions belonging to all political hues barring the RSS-affiliated BMS began Monday. This is the second such nationwide shutdown called by the trade unions after the Narendra Modi government returned to power at the Centre in 2019.
The strike by central trade unions comes at a time when the economy is slowly recovering from the impact of the lockdowns imposed because of the coronavirus pandemic. Interestingly, the strike call was given in consultation with the leadership of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), which spearheaded the agitation against the three central farm laws. Ever since the farmers’ agitation, at least the Left parties had been talking about a growing synergy between farmers and the working class.
The trade unions have put forward a 12-point charter of demands. Apart from this, the trade unions—including Congress’s INTUC, CPM’s CITU, CPI’s AITUC and others like HMS, AIUTUC, TUCC, SEWA, AICCTU, LPF, and UTUC—are also demanding that the government accept the six-point charter of demands put forward by the SKM after the repeal of the three farm laws.
Their main demands are scrapping of the labour codes and the Essential Defence Services Act, stopping privatisation and scrapping of the National Monetisation Pipeline, food and income support of Rs 7500 per month to non-income taxpaying households, increased allocation for MNREGA and extension of Employment guarantee Scheme to urban areas, universal social security for all informal sector workers, statutory minimum wage and social security for Anganwadi, ASHA, mid-day meal and other scheme workers and proper protection and insurance facilities for frontline workers serving the people in the midst of the pandemic.
The other demands are “increase in public investment in agriculture, education, health and other crucial public utilities by taxing the rich through wealth tax etc in order to revive and revamp the national economy, a substantial reduction in Central Excise duty on petroleum product and concrete remedial measure to arrest price rise, regularisation of contract workers and cancellation of NPS and restoration of old pension under Employees’ Pension Scheme.
Several independent sectoral federations and bank associations have also joined the two-day Bharat Bandh.
“Our united struggle is not only to save the rights and lives/livelihood of people but also save the country’s economy and the entire democratic system and the society as a whole from disaster and destruction being engineered by the authoritarian forces in governance with the active support of private corporates, both domestic and foreign, and decisively defeat the disastrous policy regime and their political operators in governance,” the trade unions had said while announcing the strike in December.