Nationwide trade strike near total in Kerala

Kannur: Trade Union members participate in a protest march against "anti-labour, anti-people and anti-national policies" of the Narendra Modi-led Central Government on the first day of the two-day long nationwide strike called by central trade unions, in Kerala's Kannur on Jan 8, 2019.

Thiruvananthapuram,   The two-day nationwide strike called by trade unions was near total in Kerala on Tuesday and was by and large peaceful, with train services badly hit.

Barring the BJP-backed BMS trade union, all other unions are protesting in support of demands including a raise in minimum wages to Rs 18,000 amongst others.

At the stroke of midnight, employees attached to the Government Press took out a protest march here.

Demonstrators got into the act across the state by blocking rail traffic, following which several trains ran behind schedule.

Protesters blocked trains at practically all major stations in Kerala.

State-owned private buses and contract vehicles went off the roads but pilgrims to the Sabarimala shrine were allowed to proceed from all places.

But during the day, even Sabarimala services got affected especially from Kottayam bus station amid angry exchanges between the pilgrims and the staff of the state owned transport service.

Private vehicles, however, plied.

Banks, state and central government offices remained shut but shops and establishments including hotels opened in several parts of the state.

According to the striking bank employees, over 22,000 bank employees in the state took part in the strike, leaving banking activities in shambles.

Workers at Cochin Port and Cochin Export Processing Zone were stopped by the protesters.

Even though there was a general advisory given by the trade unions that they will not force closure of shops, there were heated arguments between the protesters and those who tried to open their shops at Malappuram and Kozhikode.

All university examinations slated for the day have been postponed and educational institutions were closed.

Senior CPI-M Rajya Sabha member and trade union leader Elamaram Kareem told the media that the two-day protest was total in Kerala.

“The labourers at all the estates in the state are on strike. This is a protest against the wrong policies of the Centre,” said Kareem.

Attendance at the State Secretariat was very poor. But in the nearby Accountant General’s office of the Comptroller and Auditor General, it stood at 80 per cent.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and his cabinet colleagues also failed to turn up at their office in the Secretariat complex.

But with the strike set to enter a second day, more shops and establishments are likely to open on Wednesday.