The working class and the common people have, on 8th January 2020, once again emphatically voiced their opposition to the neoliberal policies and the communal divisive agenda pursued by the BJP government led by Modi.
While the joint trade union platform gave the call for the countrywide general strike on the day, around 200 peasants’ organisations extended support and called for a ‘rural bandh’. The call received massive response from the people already fighting the attacks on the basic tenets of our Constitutional and on the democratic rights of the people. Though full reports are yet to be received, from all states and sectors, the available information shows that people responded magnificently to the call for strike and bandh. The visible anger of the people and the massive response from all sections of the people can be missed only by those having blind allegiance to the RSS and its affiliates in power.
The joint trade union movement comprising the major ten central trade unions in the country and almost all the independent national federations in the service sector raised not only the issues of the workers but also of all other sections of the common people. The trade unions strongly condemned CAA, NPR and NRC that seek to create two categories of citizens, and the violence unleashed by the BJP governments on the people fighting against CAA. They demanded strong action against the ABVP and Hindutva goons who attacked the JNU students including the JNUSU president Aeshi Ghosh with iron rods and sticks and the VC of JNU and the police who facilitated the attacks.
Around 25 crore workers and people from various sections reportedly participated in the strike and the demonstrations held on the occasion.
The strike was total in many industrial clusters across the country, including in the multinational corporations. In Karnataka, strike was total in Toyota, Volvo buses, Volvo trucks, Bosch, ITC, Vikram (JK) Tyres, Reid and Taylor etc. Most of the industrial clusters in Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, NCR Delhi etc were closed due to the strike. Thousands of workers struck work and participated in huge demonstrations. In Delhi, despite the inclement weather thousands of workers, common people, youth and students participated in the joint demonstration held at the ITO. Workers in the Jamshedpur industrial area in Jharkhand, in Ludhiana, Jullundar etc in Punjab, in Surat, Ahmedabad, Baroda, Rajkot etc in Gujarat also participated in the strike. Workers in West Bengal ignored TMC chief minister Mamatha Bannerjee’s opposition to the strike. Workers in Gujarat and other BJP ruled states ignored the threats and intimidation by their respective state governments as well as the government of India of action against those participating in the strike.
As in the earlier strikes, hundreds of thousands of workers not owing allegiance to any central trade unions, most of them not at all organised under any trade unions participated in the strike in industrial clusters in and around Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Pune, Indore, Neemach etc. The issues of trade union rights, particularly the right to organisation, minimum wage of Rs 21000 per month, social security for all, equal wage and benefits to contract workers doing the same work as the permanent workers etc found resonance with them. Garment workers also participated in the strike in large numbers.
There was total bandh in Kerala, Assam, Bihar, Odisha, Goa etc. The BJP government tried to intimidate shop owners not to shut their shops and compelled the transporters and transport workers to ply vehicles. But totally ignoring this the people of the state observed complete bandh. In West Bengal too workers and common people came out in huge numbers and participated in the bandh resiting the police who tried to prevent them. In many districts in Jharkhand, Punjab etc there was a bandh like situation.
The strike on 8th Janaury 2020 saw good response from the public sector workers compared to earlier strikes. It was total in several units of BHEL including in Trichy, Ranipet etc. Significantly, it was total in BHEL Jhansi and around 70% Haridwar. Strike was total in RINL Vizag and Salem steel plant and partial in other steel plants. Kakinada, Tuticorin, Cochin, Mazgaon, Paradip ports were closed due to the strike by both permanent and contract workers. DRDO labs across the country were closed due to the strike.
Electricity production and distribution were affected across the country including in Uttar Pradesh due to the total strike by the employees of the state electricity boards.
Road transport workers in most of the states participated in the strike, particularly opposing the MV (Amendment) Act. It is reported that around 3.5 crore road transport workers participated in the strike all over the country. In many states roads were deserted making the strike highly visible. In West Bengal, though buses were running, there were no passengers. In Madhya Pradesh too where most of the road transport workers were not organised, they participated in the strike.
Lakhs of scheme workers, particularly anganwadi employees, midday meal workers and ASHAs across the country joined the strike and participated in the demonstrations and dharnas. In Gujarat, in many districts where no other trade union existed, the anganwadi employees and ASHAs not only participated in the strike defying threats by the BJP state government, but took initiative to organise demonstrations. Medical and sales representatives also participated in full in the strike as well as in the demonstrations.
Central government and state government employees participated in the strike ignoring the warnings of the governments. Around 13 lakh central government employees in postal, income tax, audit and accounts, etc participated.
Strike in the banking sector was near total while it was total in the insurance sector. Telecom employees also participated in the strike.
In addition, workers in several segments of unorganised sector like construction, beedi, brick kiln, village chowkidars, home based workers, domestic workers, autorickshaw drivers etc participated in the strike, as also the plantation workers across the country.
Huge demonstrations, rail and road blockades were organised in thousands of places in the country with the participation of hundreds of thousands of people. In many states like Telangana, Gujarat and others the police did not permit demonstrations and mobilisations. However people participated in the demonstrations defying police and administration. In Assam over two thousand people including the CITU and SFI leaders were arrested and detained for several hours.
The call for ‘rural bandh’ given by the peasants’ and agricultural workers’ organisations was also met with huge response. Across the country tens of thousands of peasants and agricultural workers participated in the road and rail blockades in huge numbers. Students, youth and women also participated in the demonstrations.
On the whole, the strike was yet another proof that the BJP led Modi government is fast losing support of the people because of its aggressive neoliberal policies for the benefit of the corporates and its attempts to implement the RSS agenda of establishing the ‘Hindu Rashtra’ by attacking the Constitutional principles. It is increasingly getting isolated from the young people. It is miserably failing in all its dubious attempts to confuse people and gain their confidence. After the sordid and abhorrent episode to capture power in Maharashtra it stands further exposed for its greed for power.
Keeping the growing anger among the people, massive response of the people to the strike and bandh call and the increasing readiness of people to assert their democratic rights, it is necessary to continue the struggle. The unity, of the working class and other sections of the people, needs to be widened and strengthened. It is only by heightening such united struggles that the anti people and anti national policies of the BJP led government and its divisive disruptive machinations be defeated.
This strike is a warning to the government that it can neglect people’s anger only at its peril.