All India General Strike: A Brief Report

Workers across the country responded to the call of 10 central trade unions including INTUC, AITUC, HMS, CITU, AIUTUC, TUCC, SEWA, UTUC, LPF and AICCTU, as well as several national and state level associations and federations of employees and workers and organized the first All India General Strike in the Modi regime for a 12-point charter of demands.

All major Left parties including CPI(ML) supported this strike action. The ruling BJP affiliate Bhartiya Mazdoor Sangh withdrew from the call of general strike at the last moments. During the strike, the anger of the working class against the attempts of the government to amend labour laws in favour of corporates was particularly visible. These are amendments which would remove 70% of the workers from the ambit of the labour laws for which the workers have fought since British times and secured after great sacrifices. In addition, anger against spiraling prices, rising unemployment, retrenchment, and job insecurity made this countrywide strike a unique success.

In a joint statement the workers' organizations which called for the strike said that the strike was pervasively successful in the transport, coal, electricity, banking, insurance, state government personnel, port, defence, communication and automobile sectors. Millions of workers came out on the streets and expressed their anger in all small and big towns in the country.

The unions strongly condemned the police oppression on trade union activists in West Bengal and the attacks by Trinamool and Congress goons and termed it state sponsored terrorism. Worker-activists have also been arrested or lathi-charged in other parts of the country. Despite all this, the strike has been hugely successful in these places.

In most states, government road transport workers joined in the strike; even private transport was partially affected. Roadways buses did not run in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh and other states. Defence production came to a standstill; about 5 lakh workers from this sector took part in the strike. The strike was 100% successful in major finance sectors like banking and insurance. About 2 million workers from public and private finance sectors participated in the strike. The strike was successful in coal mines and even the unions affiliated with BMS, which did not take part in strike, had to join the strike in these places. The strike was fully effective in iron ore, bauxite, copper, aluminum and other mines. The strike affected the steel sector also and for the first time workers struck work on a massive scale at the Bhilai Steel Plant. There was an unprecedented response to the Strike at Bokaro and Rourkela Steel Plants too. The strike was successful in the postal department. Postal workers organized dharnas and meetings in front of their offices. There was a near total strike in the oil sector across the country. The strike had a wide spread effect in tea gardens in eastern and southern India.

Along with AICCTU, the All India Agricultural Labour Association (AIARLA) put in all efforts for the success of the strike and both these organizations mobilized urban and rural workers. Activists of CPI(ML) and its student-youth organizations also came out on the streets to show support in solidarity with the workers.

The impact of the strike was so overwhelming that even non-unionized unorganised sector workers came onto streets. Left parties held joint rallies in solidarity with the strikers at many places across the country.

AICCTU Central Working Committee member Abhijit Bhattacharya and 7 other comrades were arrested while protesting in Siliguri. On the eve of the general strike Congress goons had attacked AICCTU leader Pradeep Bhattacharya in Hooghly district while he was campaigning for the strike. CPI(ML) activists were also arrested in Jalpaiguri.

Thousands of workers actively participated in picketings and courted arrested. Agricultural and rural workers, government school and midday meal workers in rural areas held protests. Protests, meetings, road and rail blocks were organized at different places. A large number of women workers joined the marches and meetings. Rural workers, construction workers, midday meal workers, beedi workers, contractual workers, government and non-government workers, unorganised sector workers, all came out on the streets and brought work to a standstill. They conducted rallies, marches, meetings, and blocked roads and railways as well in some places.
Midday meal workers and Rasoiya Associations also took out rallies. Contract and casual workers, as well as Construction workers, took part in the strike with greater vigour and energy. At many places like in HEC, Ranchi, there was a strike after a long gap. At many places even the BMS was forced to join.

The strike was total in the coal-belts of Jharkhand and coal production and transportation came to a complete standstill. Coal outsourcing was also fully stopped. Contractual workers in municipalities also joined the strike at many places. The transport workers strike acted as a morale booster for the strikers at many places. Auto and taxi drivers also participated in significant numbers in many towns. The life slowed down considerably and the people gave good support to the strike. Street vendors too played a role in enforcement of strike call in Bengaluru and other places.

Workers and their Union leader addressed rallies where they said that the countrywide strike signifies the beginning of the end for the Modi government. They also pointed out the complicity of various governments in states in large scale corruption, nepotism, and anti-worker activities. They stressed the need for a united fight against the pro-corporate and anti-people policies of the central and state governments.

Many independent trade unions operating at various factory levels also came out on the streets on the day of strike and joined the rally. Participation of contract workers and other unorganized workers like garments, construction, rice mill, brick kilns, etc., was also significant. Schools and colleges were also forced to close down because of non availability of bus services.

Workers marched through the streets of industrial estates, they forced down the shutters in companies that did not give a heed to the strike call and thousands of workers were sent home back. Seeing the huge impact of the strike many IT companies, including MNCs, declared leave for their employees.

The strike was successful in all the states, all major industrial centres and in all major sectors of economy.

Liberation Archive