People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
December 31, 2006
Workers, Employees Join Strike En Masse
P R Krishnan
MAHARASHTRA witnessed on December 14 en masse participation of the working class and middle class employees in the nationwide strike, called by the Sponsoring Committee of Trade Unions on the 16-point demands. State government employees were, in this premier state, the biggest contingent in this strike against the anti-people and anti-working class policies of the UPA government. The strike force included the entire teaching community from primary schools to college and university level teachers. The strike in the state government services was so magnificent that work from taluka level offices in rural Maharashtra to the state secretariat offices in Mumbai remained paralysed.
The central government services were also equally hit hard and went out of gear. The central government establishments such as income tax offices, accountant general offices, passport offices, civil accounts offices, textile commissioner’s offices, director of supplies and disposal offices and postal services got completely paralysed as the staff stayed away from work. In many of the central government offices, officers also joined the staff. All the port and dock workers and the transport and allied categories of maritime workers in the Mumbai harbour and in the nearby Jawarharlal Nehru Port began the strike from the early day shift onwards. As a result, no handling of cargo took place in any of the harbours in Maharashtra. The Air Port Authority of India’s employees at the Sahar International Airport in Mumbai also struck work like their counterparts in other airports in the country.
Bank employees from all nationalised banks came out en masse. Those from Life Insurance Corporation of India offices and general insurance establishment deserted their offices. No transactions took place in any of the nationalised banks including the Reserve Bank of India, bringing the stock exchange operations and share market activities to a standstill. Referring to the impact of the strike, The Time of India, a leading newspaper, had to report the next day that “the high value cheque clearing work was the worst hit in Mumbai. This paper further said, “…of an average clearance of 15,000 to 16,000 instruments every day, instruments worth only Rs 5.5 crore were cleared on Thursday.” This is how economic activities came to a halt in this commercial capital of the country as a result of the strike on December 14.
The industrial and unorganised sector workers owing allegiance to the CITU and other pro-Left trade unions struck work in other cities and towns in Maharashtra, such as Nasik, Solapur, Pune, Ichalkaranjee, Thane, Raigad, Nagpur etc. There were rallies and demonstrations held in all industrial centres in these towns. Meetings and rallies were also held at all the district headquarters.
At Andheri and Goregaon in the western suburbs of Mumbai, a large number of people staged a Rail Roko action in the morning. At Bhandup in the northeast suburb in Mumbai, a 2000 strong procession was taken out to the police station. In this suburb of Bhandup, retail shop owners also downed their shutters to lend support to the strike.
In south Mumbai, the strike force held a massive rally at Azad Maidan under the banner of the Trade Unions Joint Action Committee at 11.30 in the morning. A large number of white-collar employees from banks, Life Insurance Corporation and General Insurance companies came out in processions to join the rally.
The rally was also joined by a large number of workers from the unorganised sector. They were addressed among others by state government employees’ leader R G Karnik, HMS leader S R Kulkarni, CITU leader K L Bajaj, AITUC leader Suresh Dhopeshwarkar, Sarvasramik Sangh leaders Uday Bhat and M A Patil, BEFI leader G M V Naik and MSEB leader A D Golandaz, demanding that the UPA government reverse the anti-people and anti-worker policies. It may be noted that though the BMS, INTUC, HMKP and Shiva Sena led organisations did not join the strike, their members and supporters participated in the action at many places in the state.
In rural Maharashtra, the industrial strike was backed by militant road blockade programmes by mass of the people. They comprised farmers, agricultural workers, adivasis, students, youth, factory workers and political activists, carrying the banners of All India Kisan Sabha, All India Agricultural Workers Union and Students Federation of India, Democratic Youth Federation of India, All India Democratic Women’s Association and Communist Party of India (Marxist).
The CPI(M) state committee had, in this regard, appealed to all the party-led mass organisations advised party units in the state to work hard to mobilise all sections of people in support of the strike. The CITU state committee and district committees had brought out and displayed a large number of posters all over the state. The CITU also distributed thousands of handbills explaining the reasons for the strike.
It is estimated that, in all, about 40 lakh people took part in the strike and nearly 20,000 people participated in the road blockade and other protest demonstrations held in several parts of Maharashtra. The CPI(M) state secretary Ashok Dhawale, CITU state president K L Bajaj and CITU state general secretary Dr D L Karad congratulated the mass of the people for their participation in the strike.