New Delhi: The 48-hour long Bharat Bandh called by trade unions, which began on Wednesday, paralysed transport and banking services in many parts of the country. However, the worst affected was Noida, as the protests took an ugly turn with factory workers targeting vehicles, even setting many on fire.
The situation was worst in Noida phase II as protest by over 1000 trade union workers turned violent and vandalised cars, setting many of them on fire. They even broke the windowpanes of a fire tender which went to douse the fire.
A witness to the violence, who works in a factory damaged by the protestors, said, "The protestors came at the gate and wanted us to shut office. They broke glasses with bricks and stones."
Later, Noida police managed to bring the situation under control. According to the police, a demonstration by CPM trade union workers turned violent at a factory when the management did not come out to speak to them. They were agitating for an increase in wages. At least five vehicles were damaged in the violence in which a few policemen were also injured.
The administration also ordered a joint magisterial inquiry into the violence in Noida, and also decided to assess the financial damage that was caused by the protestors. According to DM MK Sundaram, they did not expect such huge unruly mob. Terming the violence as unfortunate, he said that the situation had been brought under control.
Meanwhile, Noida SSP Shalabh Mathur said 14 people had been arrested. He further said that the police had no input that such huge mob would come out to protest.
At other places across the country, the bandh by the trade unions got mixed response. In many states, public transport services remained off the road. The maximum impact was in Kerala where banks and shops were shut and taxis, autos, private and public buses did not ply on the road. The bandh impacted life in Bangalore, Punjab and Haryana as well.
Meanwhile, in West Bengal, commuters faced problems at the railway stations. While private educational institutions remained open, shops and other establishments were partially open. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee claimed that the people of West Bengal had rejected the bandh.
"Work culture has been restored in Bengal. There was 100 per cent attendance in state government offices. We withdrew our support from the Centre because of fuel price hike and FDI in retail...those who are sponsoring today's bandh refused to support our no-confidence motion," said Mamata.
She further said, "I am not concerned about other states, in my state people have reposed trust on us. Tomorrow everything will remain open, people will be on roads."
The strike is slated to continue on Thursday, and may even get bigger with Maruti Suzuki, Hero MotoCorp and Suzuki Motorcycle India announcing that they would join the strike on the second day.
Production at leading automobile companies will be hit on Thursday as workers have decided to stay away from work in support of the two-day strike called by central trade unions.
Referring to the demands of the trade unions, Union Labour Minister Mallikarjun Kharge said the issues could not be resolved in a day. "They are talking about price rise, disinvestment...these things take time and cannot be resolved in a day. These things take time, we know they have been saying this for two years now, but the government is doing its best."
Meanwhile, Industry body Assocham on Wednesday expressed fears that the loss to GDP due to the strike by central trade unions could be about Rs 26,000 crore, higher than its initial estimate of Rs 15,000-20,000 crore. "Against initial estimates of Rs 15,000-20,000 crore, the GDP may be eroded by about Rs 26,000 crore," the Assocham said in a release.
"In the wake of more than expected disruption, we estimate the loss to the GDP in today and tomorrow's Bandh to be in the region of Rs 25,000-Rs 26,000 crore - near 50 per cent of the economic activity," said Assocham Economic analysts team.
(With Additional Inputs from PTI)Tweets: Bharat Bandh