2-day strike called by trade, bank unions begins in India

NEW DELHI, March 28 (Xinhua) -- A 48-hour strike called by various trade unions, including banking employees associations, began Monday across India.

Protesters take part in a demonstration during a nationwide general strike against the policies of the central government, in Ahmedabad on March 28, 2022. (Photo: AFP)

According to the unions, the strike has been called to protest government policies affecting workers, farmers and people at large.

The strike has affected normal life as banking services were partially impacted as a section of employees at many public sector banks choose not to report for duty.

However, the functioning at most private sector banks was going on normally.

The bank unions are protesting against the government's move to privatize two public sector banks as announced in this year's general budget. They are also demanding an increase in the interest rate on deposits and a reduction in service charges.

"The impact of the strike is prominent in eastern India as many branches of public sector banks there are closed," said C H Venkatachalam, general secretary of the All India Bank Employees' Association, quoted by local media. "In the other regions, branches are open as officers are present but services are being impacted due to many employees participating in the strike."

Reports pouring in from Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal said trade union activists took to the streets holding banners in support of the call.

Members from the Left Front gathered in huge numbers and blocked railway tracks in Kolkata. Two workers were reportedly injured after the protestors tried to stop a moving train in West Bengal's Howrah.

The Kerala State Road Transport Corporation buses remained off the roads in the wake of the strike.

According to Amarjeet Kaur, general secretary of the All Indian Trade Union Congress, over 200 million formal and informal workers are expected to participate in the strike. Kaur said workers in the entire coal mining belt in Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh have joined the protest.

Meanwhile, on Sunday, the federal power ministry advised all the state-run utilities and other agencies to be on high alert and ensure round-the-clock electricity supply and stability of the national grid.

The ministry has asked the states and other agencies to ensure maintaining and reliability of the electricity grid during the strike called by the National Convention of Workers from March 28 to 30.

"The ministry advised that all the power utilities shall take necessary measures to ensure round the clock normal functioning of the electricity grid and availability of all plants, transmission lines and substations," reads the advisory.

"Power supply to essential services such as hospitals, defense, railways, etc., should be ensured. All regional and state control room executives should be on high alert."