People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)

Vol. XXX

No. 53

December 31, 2006

A Red Letter Day For Orissa


Dusmanta Das


ON December 14, normal life in most parts of Orissa came to a standstill due to the all-India strike called by the Sponsoring Committee of Trade Unions, coupled with a hartal organised by various mass organisations and two Left parties viz the CPI(M) and CPI. Starting from cities like Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Rourela, Berhampur and Sambalpur to the remote villages in Sundargarh and Kalahandi, the effects of the general strike were visible everywhere. While it was like a bandh in many industrial towns, the impact was most visible in the iron ore mining areas of Sundargarh and Keonjhar district. 


Road transport was completely paralysed throughout the state. The movement of passenger and goods trains was stopped due to picketing on railway tracks at various places. National Highways and Express Highways were almost empty; at some places they turned into resting places for the lorries and goods carriers. 


Many of the shops and commercial establishments remained closed.


Public sector Life Insurance, General Insurance, commercial Banks and NABARD offices were completely closed. Reserve Bank work was paralysed. Workers and employees of several other sectors were also on strike. Due to the strike by central government employees, postal, RMS & MMS, GSI, Surveyor General of India, the government of India’s Text Book Press and income tax offices remained paralysed. FCI employees too were on strike. NALCO employees at Damanjodi staged a 2-hour strike and sat in dharna for the whole day. Workers in various small and medium factories, establishments and in certain coalmines remained on strike. At various places, teachers and students also joined the strike. In state government offices employees owing allegiance to the AISGEF were on strike.


Except the CPI(M) and CPI, no major political party in the state supported the strike call. But the magnitude of strike surprised the state’s BJD-BJP government. People being affected by the anti-people policies of both the central and state governments came out into the streets in a greater member than before in support of the strike. This surprised the government as it was unaware of the ground realities. Participation of the adivasis and women surpassed that on all the previous occasions. The Kalinga Nagar police firing on innocent tribals is still vivid in the minds of the people, particularly the adivasis of Orissa. 


Being desperate, the state government arrested more than 3000 leaders and cadres all over the state. These included state CPI(M) secretary Janardan Pati, former MP Sivaji Patnaik, Laxman Munda (MLA), Bishnu Mohantu and Lambodhar Nayak of the (CITU) and others.


Compared to all other past strike actions, the December 14 strike was better organised and better prepared for. Almost all the big and small towns of the state had a convention involving mass organisations on the 16-point demands of the strike call. A well-attended state level convention at Bhubaneswar on October 22 preceded the local/town level conventions. The CPI(M) and CPI fully geared up their ranks and file for the success of the general strike.


The success of the strike has opened up many opportunities in the state. Suffering people from various walks of life came to the streets to oppose the anti-people policies of both the central and state governments. Through the strike they ventilated their dissatisfaction against the wrong acts of those at the helm of affairs and at the same time they realised that the call of the Sponsoring Committee and the Left parties against such anti-people acts was the real alternative.