Vol. XLIII No. 04 January 27, 2019

TELANGANA: Massive Response to All India General Strike

M Saibabu

IN a huge response, about 20 lakh workers in Telangana, both from organised and unorganised sectors, directly participated in the all India general strike on January 8 and 9, as per the call given by 10 central trade unions and National Federations. Employees of the Telangana state government, railways, defense and teachers participated in the rallies and dharnas protesting the anti-working class and anti-people policies adopted by the BJP-led central government.

Irrespective of the political affiliations, the entire working class has expressed anger against the neoliberal policies implemented aggressively by the Narendra Modi government. Apart from trade unions associated with the opposition parties like CITU, AITUC, INTUC, AIUTUC and two unions of IFTU, the Telugu Nadu Trade Union Council (TNTUC) and Telangana Rashtra Samithi Karmika Vibhagam (TRSKV) also stood in support of the strike.

The campaign for the general strike picked up momentum only from January 15, as the campaign for the state assembly elections was in progress and the trade unions took different political lines during elections. However, after the elections, a state-level convention was organised and the strike campaign was taken to district, mandal, and factory levels resulting in the grand success of the strike.

Industries were shut down in 54 industrial clusters on the two days and production was stopped in automobile, engineering, distilleries, beverages, pharmaceuticals and other heavy and medium industries. The impact was intense in Sangareddy, Patancheru, Cherlapally, Nacharam, Jeedimetla, Rangareddy, Shadnagar, Bhongir, Bibinagar, Choutuppal, Hyderabad Defense Production Industry, Bharat Dynamics Ltd, Ramagundam NTPC, Manuguru  Heavy Water Plant belonging to Atomic fuel and NMDC Palavancha. In LIC and GIC, there was complete strike along with contract workers in various sectors.

On the other hand, only 50 per cent participation was seen in banking and BSNL. About 6,000 medical representatives, under the leadership of Telangana Medical and Sales Representatives Union (TMSRU) extended their complete support to the strike. Under the leadership of Confederation of Central Government employees, all divisions of postal employees participated in the strike. In the state medical and health sectors, the ANMs and paramedical staff nurses struck work. In defense, under the leadership of DRDO Labs Ordnance Factory employees and Nuclear Fuel complex (NFC) employees organised protest rallies on the first day and attended duties with black badges.  Employees of central government organisations like ECIL, BEL, Midhani, BHEL and HAL participated in protest programmes in support of the strike.

Partial strike was observed in RTC and  in Singareni coal mines as the recognised union led by the ruling TRS party had distanced itself from the strike. Despite the discontent among the workers of these sectors, the TRS unions demonstrated their double standards.

Production was brought to a halt in the beedi industry spread over northern Telangana where an approximate seven lakh workers were on strike. Rice, dal and ginning mills were shut down. The GCC, Civil supplies, Beverages, market hamalies, construction workers, quarry workers and workers in stone mill, in thousands struck work.

A considerable section of the auto industry from across the state took part in the strike against the amendment of Motor Vehicles Act. Thousands of electricity employees protested before the Hyderabad Vidyut Soudha, and in front of electricity department offices in all districts against amendments to Electricity Act 2017, on the call given by Electricity Employees Associations and Engineer Associations.

Anganwadis, Ashas in National Health Mission, second ANMs, cooks and workers of midday meal scheme, hygiene workers of government schools, hostels and non-teaching staff of Gurukulas, about two lakh of them, participated in the strike. Employees of essential services like private hospitals – Apollo, Yasoda, Saikrishna, Hyderabad NIMS, ESI hospitals and others participated in protests by wearing black badges.

State government sector employees and teachers marched before their offices demanding abolition of contributory pension scheme, and implementation of old pension scheme. Thousands of pensioners under the leadership of All India Retired and Pensioners Association, took part in the strike rally demanding an increase in minimum pension. Shop employees, quarries, stone mills, agricultural markets, push carts and other unorganised sector workers participated in the strike considerably.

The CPI(M), CPI, New Democracy, MCPI(U), RSP, Forward  block and SUCI leaders participated in solidarity rallies and meetings and stated that the red flag will always stand by the workers. Even though the two-day strike ended, the fight of the trade unions against the retrograde neoliberal policies and religious fanatical policies of the BJP government will continue, the unions announced in unison.