The day-long All India General Strike, called by ten central trade unions and supported by Congress and the Left parties, has seen sporadic violence across the state of West Bengal on Thursday.
According to reports on Bengali media, the protestors have clashed with the police in several places, while resorting to burning tyres and forcing shops to close to stage their demonstration. However, any report of large scale violence is yet to emerge.
In Coochbehar, the protestors have been accused of ransacking a government bus. The vehicle did not have any passenger and as a result, no injury was reported.
Reportedly, the supporters of the strike tried to enter Dum Dum, Chandni Chowk and Central metro stations in Kolkata to block the train service. But they were stopped at the gates where enough police had already been deployed. Metro services, thus, did not face any hindrance.
In Barrackpore and Barasat regions of North 24 Parganas district, the Left workers’ call to block the roads did not go down well and instigated tension. Images of burning tyres have emerged from there. But, the police has been so far able to maintain law and order.
At Shyamnagar in Sealdah-Ranaghat main line, the protestors blocked the railway tracks to disrupt the local train service. Train services in Howrah division have been affected as well, with the demonstrators blocking Rishra, Baidyabati, Chandannagar and Mogra stations among others.
In Birbhum, the Left and Congress workers – who were trying to enforce the strike – in Siuri, Bolpur and in other important places of the district, were removed by police after a little scuffle. In Bankura more than 100 cadres of Congress and Left parties have been detained.
Murshidabad’s Kandi also witnessed some minor clashes between the protestors and the police. In West Burdwan, the police forcefully removed the protestors who had blocked the streets to disrupt transportation.
The strike has been majorly successful at the jute mills in Hooghly and North 24 Parganas districts. The mills at both sides of river Hooghly saw their workers accepting the call of the trade unions. Factories in other regions have reported much lower employees turnout than normal.
The strike has been jointly called by ten central trade unions – Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS), Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), All India United Trade Union Centre (AIUTUC), Trade Union Co-ordination Centre (TUCC), Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) and All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU), Labour Progressive Federation (LPF) and United Trade Union Congress (UTUC).
The unions are protesting against the three new Labour Codes – the Industrial Relations Code Bill, 2020; the Code on Social Security Bill, 2020; and the Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code Bill, 2020 – that were passed by both houses of the Parliament earlier this year.
Several farmers’ organisations, including the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), have extended their support. They have mobilised their members in rural India to stand in solidarity with the striking workers.
Scores of farmers, who have been protesting in the North Indian states of Punjab and Haryana against the new Farm Bills – Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 and Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill 2020 – decided to march to Delhi to express their disenchantment with the new government politics. Farmers from Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan have also joined the rally.
Major sections of MGNREGA workers, beedi workers, scheme workers, hawkers, vendors, agricultural labours and several others have participated in the nationwide “chakka jam”.
Apart from immediate withdrawal of the “anti-labour and anti-farm bills”, the protestors demand cash transfer of ₹7,500 each month to all non-income tax paying families and 10 kgs of free ration to every needy individuals per month.
They have also demanded increase inthe spans of MGNREGA work to 200 days and it’s expansion to urban areas.