Two-day Bharat Bandh from today, essential services likely to be affected

New Delhi: A joint forum of central unions has declared a Bharat Bandh on March 28-29, and bank workers intend to join the protest against government policies that impact workers, farmers and people. Following the two-day nationwide Bharat Bandh declared by the joint central union forum, some of the essential services including banking, transport, railways and electricity are likely to be hit today and tomorrow, according to the media.

Indian Trade Union Congress (AITUC) General Secretary Amarjeet Kaur told PTI news agency that a participation of over 20 million formal and informal workers with a massive mobilization of workers across the country is expected. during the strike. “We expect the participation of more than 20 million formal and informal workers with a massive mobilization of workers across the country during the March 28-29 strike to protest government policies,” she said.

Kaur added that the strike is also expected to affect rural areas, where informal workers in agriculture and other sectors will join the protest, according to a PTI report. Unions of workers in various sectors such as coal, steel, oil, telecommunications, post, income tax, copper, banking and insurance had given strike notices.

According to the union statement, unions in the railways and defense sectors would mobilize to support the strike in tens of thousands of localities. The union further said that despite the imminent danger of ESMA (Essential Services Maintenance Act) in Haryana and Chandigarh, highway, transport and electricity workers chose to join the strike. When ESMA is called, any strike is prohibited.

National Congress of Indian Trade Unions (INTUC), Indian Trades Union Congress (AITUC), Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS), Center of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), All India United Trade Union Center (AIUTUC), Trade Union Coordination Center (TUCC), Association of Self-Employed Women (SEWA), Indian Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU), Progressive Federation of Labor (LPF) and United Trades Union Congress (UTUC) are some of the unions that are part of the common forum.

The abandonment of proposed changes in labor laws, privatization in all its forms and the national monetization pipeline are some of the demands of the unions. Other demands include increased wage allocation under the Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) and regularization of contract workers.

The All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA) said it would join the nationwide general strike to oppose rising unemployment, lower wages, privatization of public sector banks and proposed bill of 2021 amending banking laws, among other issues.

“The joint central trade union platform must play a leading and decisive role in building resistance to this destructive and disastrous corporate-led regime,” AIBEA said in a statement.

The Bank Employees’ Federation of India (BEFI) and the All India Bank Officers’ Association (AIBOA) are among the trade union centers that have joined the protest. The State Bank of India (SBI) issued a similar notification, stating that due to the banking strike, its services may be affected on the specified days.

“We inform that although the bank has taken the necessary measures to ensure the normal functioning of its branches and offices on the days of the strike, it is likely that the work in our bank may be affected to a limited extent by the strike”, has said the SBI. in a report.

Unions in the insurance sector, like the banking sector, have expressed their support for the Bandh.

Despite demands from several unions for a nationwide 48-hour strike/strip on March 28-29, all West Bengal state government offices would remain open and employees would report for work on these days.

How will the power supply be affected?

On March 27, the Union Department of Energy advised all utilities and other agencies to be on high alert and ensure 24-hour electricity supply and stability of the National Network. “The Center of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) has called for a nationwide strike with effect from 06:00 a.m. on 28 March to 06:00 a.m. on 30 March 2022,” said a notice issued by the ministry.

The Department of Energy has issued the notice to all states, central public sector companies, central electricity authority, national load dispatch center and regional load dispatch centers .

The ministry said that in the interests of electricity consumers, all electricity utilities are advised to take the necessary steps to ensure the 24-hour operation of the electricity network and the availability of all power stations, transmission lines and substations. He added that all executives in regional and national control rooms should be vigilant and on high alert.

Some of the ministry’s suggestions include that steps should be taken to ensure secure and reliable network operations. The ministry said closure activities scheduled for March 28 and 29 could be rescheduled to appropriate future dates where possible.

The Ministry has instructed all relevant officials to closely monitor their regional network/area of ​​control. He said the workforce can be deployed to all critical substations/power stations 24X7 to handle any emergency situation.

The ministry added that the power supply for people engaged in essential services such as hospitals, defense and railways must be ensured, and suggested setting up a 24-hour control room, 7 days a week, for the dissemination of information and the management of any type of eventuality.

Impact on banking services

Union bank workers said they would support the strike. According to the PTI report, AIBEA General Secretary CH Venkatachalam said the union is calling on the government to stop the privatization of public sector banks and strengthen them.

Other demands include quick recovery of loans, higher deposit rates by banks, reduced service charges for customers as well as the restoration of old pension schemes for staff.

AIBEA, BEFI and AIBOA served strike notices on March 28 and 29, the Punjab National Bank (PNB), headquartered in New Delhi, said.

PNB said that although the bank has taken all steps to ensure the normal operation of its branches and offices, “it is likely that work in our bank may be affected to a limited extent by the strike”.

Bengaluru-based Canara Bank said that to ensure the smooth running of bank branches and offices, it was taking all necessary measures. Canara Bank added, however, that the operation of the bank could be impacted.

Private lender RBL Bank said it would take all necessary steps to keep the bank’s branches and offices running smoothly on strike days. “However, it is likely that some of our branches will also be affected by the strike,” RBL added.

(With PTI inputs)

Michelle J. Kelley