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Strike partially affects life in Karnataka

Bangalore, Feb 20 (IANS) Normal life was partially affected from dawn-to-dusk across Karnataka Wednesday on the first day of the two-day nationwide strike called by central trade unions.

"The strike call got an overwhelming response from over a million comrades across the state as their participation stalled banking transactions, halted industrial activity and brought transport operations to a standstill," S. Prasannakumar, Karnataka secretary of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions, told IANS here.

Though the 12-hour shutdown was peaceful barring stray incidents of forcible closure of shops, eateries and retail fuel outlets and stoppage of state-run and private buses in Bangalore and other cities across the state by left-wing organisations and labour unions, fear of retaliation and loss of property made many commercial establishments and private offices remain shut for the day.

As a precautionary measure, schools and colleges declared holiday for two days as unions representing three-wheeler autos, private buses and mini/maxi cabs decided to stay off roads in support of the shutdown call against price rise and "anti-people" policies.

In this tech hub, software majors such as Infosys and Wipro worked normally though the former declared a holiday to its development centre in Mysore, about 150 km from here, as employees had trouble commuting in the absence of transport service.

The strike, however, affected work at state-run behemoths such as Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL), Bharat Earth Movers Ltd. (BEML), Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd. (BHEL) and Hindustan Machine Tools Ltd. (HMT) with their trade unions responding to the call and staging demos and rallies in support of their demands.

Though auto-rickshaws remained off-roads in several areas across this city, low frequency of state-run and private bus services affected public transportation, causing hardship to commuters, especially those at railway stations and inter-state bus terminals.

Contrary to fears and uncertainty over the impact of a total shutdown, the day began normally with essential commodities, including dairy products, groceries and vegetables available in markets and residential areas.

Thousands of bank employees and workers, including trade union leaders, assembled at Freedom Park in central Bangalore after leading protest rallies from their respective offices and factories.

According to reports from across the state, normal life remained unaffected in towns and was partially hit in cities as the presence of Left parties and trade unions was not as large as in Bangalore, Mysore, Mangalore and Hubli-Dharwad in the northern region.

"We hope the central government will take note of the public anger and moral indignation against its anti-people policies and executive decisions, which are making living difficult due to price rise, jobless growth, corruption and infrastructure bottlenecks," Kumar said at the protest meet.

"We expect the strike called by trade unions to have minimal impact on our business as we are operating as usual at our development centres across the country except in Mysore," Infosys said in a statement here.

Indo Asian News Service

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