People's Democracy

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


No. 08

February 24, 2013


Over 10 Crore Workers Join Countrywide Strike


UNPRECEDENTED in terms of trade union unity and its spread and intensity, at the level of states as well as industries, the strike on February 20 and 21 created a veritable history in independent India. Breaking the barriers of political, caste and regional affiliations, the working class of India challenged the anti-worker, anti-people policies of the government and championed the interests of the country’s toilers while raising its specific demands.


Apprehending the impact of 48 hours strike on the basis of their intelligence inputs, the prime minister formed a group of ministers for last minute discussion though without any concrete proposal. Thus, the Manmohan Singh government was solely responsible for the failure of discussions and for the strike’s consequences,.


The corporate media, which continuously ignored the massive pre-strike mobilisations and big rallies as well as the issues being raised unitedly by the trade unions, suddenly woke up publishing editorials and news features showing the strike in a negative light and advising the trade unions to give up their opposition to the policy regime. Industry associations started lamenting on the country’s losses due to strike, while remaining muted on the scams and corruption of the corporate-ministers-bureaucrats nexus and on the loot of public property and natural resources.


On the first day one worker was killed while a trade union activist was killed by goons of the state road transport management’s at Ambala in Haryana. 


The 10 point demands of the strike included – check on price rise and universal PDS; concrete measures for employment generation; strict enforcement of labour laws; social security for all workers; stop to disinvestment of profit making PSUs; no to contractisation; equal pay and other benefits for equal work; minimum wage at not less than Rs 10,000 linked with the cost price index for workers;  removal of all ceilings on payment of bonus and provident fund and increase in gratuity; assured pension for all; compulsory registration of trade unions within 45 days and immediate ratification of the ILO conventions 87 and 99.


Despite all out attempt of the TMC government in West Bengal, mobilisation of the police-administration-criminals combine, and despite the use of threats against the workers, directly led by the chief minister in the field, workers of different centres, industries and services remained firm on strike, with Kolkata and other towns having a bandh like situation. In Darjeeling hills, the Gorkha Mukti Morcha, the TMC’s electoral ally, extended support to the strike. Tribal workers in tea gardens, responding to the joint appeal of tea garden unions, also joined the strike.     


Despite opposition by TRS in Telangana region of Andhra Pradesh, workers of Singrauli coal mines joined the strike.


Reports of the strike continued to pour in from all over India on the on the second day.


Banks: The banking industry remained totally paralysed for two consecutive days as entire workforce went on strike at the call of the United Forum of Bank Unions. Employees of the Reserve Bank also joined the strike at the call of the AIRBEA and AIRBWF; no operation could take place in the apex bank of the country. Employees and officers of Gramin Banks, Cooperative Banks and NABARD also joined the countrywide strike. The strike affected ATM operations too as the workforce related to ATMs also joined. Private and foreign bank employees also abstained from work. Employees and officers, both serving and retired, organised picketing before bank gates, held massive demonstrations and took out large processions in state capitals and in other important towns/cities/centres.


Insurance: More than two lakh LIC and public sector general insurance employees went on strike that was was total across the country. No transaction could take place in any of the offices of LIC and GIC. The striking employees held massive demonstrations in front of all LIC offices.


State Government Employees: About 60 lakh state government employees and teachers struck work. The strike was near total and the government offices wore deserted looks in Maharashtra, Kerala, Assam, Tripura, Haryana, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh. The participation was 90 percent in Karnataka; in Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Goa and Jammu 70 percent, and 60 percent in Tamilnadu, West Bengal and Rajasthan. In Andhra Pradesh, the government declared a holiday on the plea of Vidhan Parishad elections.


Coal: This strike surpassed all previous strike. In CCL, BCCL and ECL portions in Jharkhand, production and dispatch of coal were completely stopped. Virtually 100 percent of contract workers and about 90 percent of permanent workers went on strike. Outsourcing work also stopped completely. A majority of the six lakhs coal mine workers in nine companies --- ECL, BCCL, CCL, SECL, NCL, CMPDIL etc --- joined the strike. It was near total in the coal mining belt spread over Jharkhand, Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh while it was over 80 percent in Northern Coalfield. In nine projects the outsourced work was totally paralysed. It was almost total in the South Eastern Coalfield, averaging above 90 percent in 13 projects and 50 percent in the remaining two.


Port & Dock:  The strike was 100 percent successful at Paradip, Visakhapatnam, Cochin, New Mangalore, Mumbai and JNPT; and partial at Haldia, Kolkata and Tuticorin ports.


Iron and Steel: The strike was 100 percent in Vizag and Bhadravati steel plants; 70 percent in Salem and partial at other steel plants. It was 100 percent in all the 39 marketing branches of SAIL across the country. Contract workers in all PSUs were on strike in a massive way. Strike in all iron ore mines was complete.


Andhra Pradesh: About 90,000 workers, including contract workers, struck work. It was total in Singareni coalfield Visakha steel plant, shipyard, zink, HCL, Midhani, BEL and BDL. Postal workers 90percent; BSNL 50percent. There was total strike in the Income Tax, GSI, DRDO, civil accounts, CBDT, insurance and banks while 90 percent of postal and 50 percent of BSNL employees joined it.


Haryana: No functioning in all the government offices. Haryana  Roadways came to a standstill. A cashier at the Ambala Depot was killed while trying to picket before a bus. Electricity workers were already on strike from February 19. Employees in all the ITIs, universities, tourism, public health, irrigation and in ministerial staff kept away from work. All powerloom and spinning mills were closed in Panipat. All unions affiliated to the CITU and AITUC went on strike in Gurgaon. Roads were blocked in Bllabhgarh by 2500 striking workers. Scheme workers observed strike all over the state.


Jharkhand: All mines in Ghatshila were on strike. No work in 1000 factories in Jamshedpur. Bank, insurance and government workers observed strike, as did stone quarry workers and beedi workers in Pakur and Sahebganj. Scheme workers also went on strike. Roads were blocked in Jamshedpur, Ramgarh, Dumka, Sahebganj, Hazaribagh and Ranchi. Striking workers were arrested in eight places.


Assam: Strike evoked big response and was successful all over the state. Private buses were off the road. Fancybazar, the main market hub of north eastern region, was closed. Strike was total in banks, including RBI, insurance, many central and state government departments, in BSNL. In power and tea gardens strike was partial. Strike was total in Numaligarh Refinery, Amingaon Bottling Plant,  HFC Namrup and OIL Dhuliajan. BCPL at Lepetkata was affected by the strike. Rail services were disrupted due to picketing at different places. Several trade union leaders, including CITU general secretary Deben Bhattacharjee, secretary Tapan Sarma, FMRAI secretary Bijon Das; and about 3000 striking workers and leaders were arrested.


Rajasthan: Most of the factories in Sriganganagar, Hanumangarh, Bikaner, Sikar, Bhilwara, Chitourgarh, Udaypur, Bhawanimandi, Jodhpur, Jaipur. All 5000 workers of state transport observed strike. Garment factories in Bhawani Mandi, Bhilwara, Ringas and Hanumangarh remained closed. Striking workers of Bank and Insurance joined rally in all towns. Scheme workers in the state were on strike. Large meeting was held in Jaipur.


Tamilnadu: Over 50 percent workers of state transport were on strike, as were 50,000 workers in plantations. Auto rickshaw workers were on strike in a big way. There was total strike in BHEL in Trichi and 50 percent in Rampet. Some 70 percent workers in Salem steel plant went on strike. There was complete strike in Kalpakkam atomic power project.


Kerala: One crore workers participated in the strike. All commercial organisations remained closed. Nearly all transport workers went on strike. All activities were stopped in Cochin port and International Container Transshipment Terminals. About 4000 workers of Cochin Airport are on strike. Ignoring the court’s order workers in the Cochin Refinery resorted to strike. Excepting the essential staff, all workers were on strike in FACT, HMT and in HLL. Strike was complete in bank, insurance and telecom sectors. There was thin attendance in government offices and educational institutions. For the first time, the IT sector remained paralysed.


Odisha: Mines, steel plants and metal factories in Sundargarh could not function. The Rourkela steel plant was affected due to strike by 100 percent contract workers and a large section of permanent workers. Different plants remained closed in Keonjhar district. Coal mines in Talcher, Basundhara and Kulda project were badly affected due to strike. Work in Paradeep port was completely paralysed. Transport services were completely stopped. At least in five places rail lines were picketed. The NALCO captive power plant and the power plant in Talcher were also paralysed. In capital Bhubaneswar, all banks, business establishments and transport remained closed. Bandh like situation prevailed in 14 districts.


Himachal Pradesh: Strike was total in all industrial areas. Hotels in Shimla remained closed. Construction in hydel projects also stopped. All Anganwadi workers went on strike. Nearly 24,000 workers participated to strike.


Uttar Pradesh: Strike was complete in bank, insurance, telecom, post offices and other central and state government departments. UP Road Transport Corporation’s employees went on strike. No vehicle plied on road throughout the state. Anganwadi, ASHA and mid-day meal worker went on strike. Medical and sales representatives and municipal corporation employees also struck. In Sonbhadra district the Obera power project saw complete strike and so did the Anpara power project. Workers in NTPC Bijpur, Rihandnagar and Shaktinagar were on partial strike. An 800 strong demonstration was held here. Jaunpur industrial area saw complete strike. In Varanasi, Chandpur industrial area saw a strike; a 600 strong rally was brought out. In Chanduali more than 1000 workers joined the rally of striking mid-day meal workers. In Kanpur, Panki, Fazalganj and Dadanagar industrial areas, workers staged a total strike while it was partial in JK Cotton and JK Jute mills. In Saharanpur, 90 percent workers were on strike in industrial units.  Bulandshahar saw complete industrial strike; about 1000 workers staged a demonstration. In Harduaganj area of Aligarh, the strike was partial. In Ferozabad, there was complete strike in all factories except one. In Lucknow, Talkatora and Naderganj industrial area were on strike; 3000 workers joined a rally.