THERE has been an unprecedented response from the people of all sections to the general strike called by the central trade unions and federations against the anti-people policies of the Congress-led UPA government. The strike action was total. The strike covered the entire state from the metropolis of Kolkata to the remotest hamlets of Bengal.
The state unit of the CITU has extended its felicitations to the toiling masses for making such a big success of the strike call. The strike day remained bereft of a single incident of confrontation, not to speak of conflict.
The success of the strike all over the country, believes the Bengal CITU leadership, ‘has proved the hollowness of the vaunted claims of economic success by the present régime up in Delhi.’
A look around the outskirts of Kolkata – principally in the two 24 Parganas, Howrah, and Hooghly showed that the factories and production units in the ‘industrial belt’ remained shut down. Shops had downed shutters, office had closed their portals, the schools, colleges, and other educational institutions were ‘on holiday’ for the students.
What we noted as an exception to earlier occasions was the fact that picketing was not necessary at all in the factories, markets, and the haats. The strike call was responded to, as we said, with great and spontaneous impulsiveness.
The workers of the power sectors told us that the demand for electricity in the greater Kolkata on the strike day was 542 MW less than normal. Overall, the state-level figure was 666 MW less than normal.
The coalfields, the jute mills, the engineering factories (including the motor vehicles factory at Singur), and the tea gardens remained closed. The CITU leadership expressed pride in the fact that the workers-employees did not treat the strike day as a holiday. Meetings, conventions, processions, jathas marked the day – all against the anti-people policies of the central government.
Shyamal Chakraborty, Bengal CITU president spoke to People’s Democracy and identified three special features of the strike action of August 20.
First, the response to the strike call was spontaneous in every sense of the term from all sections of the people.
Second, the strike with a wider participation across the society roused immense anger -- amongst the toiling masses in particular -- against the central government’s policies, in a much greater way than has been recently seen. This Shyamal put down to the long periods of campaign on the strike issues carried out by the CITU and other Left trade unions.
Third, and most importantly, the strike was not an end in itself – it was but a continuation of the campaign movement against the anti-people policies of the central government, a stream of struggles that shall go on in the days to come, gathering strength all the way from the success of the strike action.