Staff stir against privatisation policy shuts banks, halts buses in Punjab & Haryana


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Banking, insurance, transport, and various other services were impacted in Punjab and Haryana on Monday during the central trade unions’ call for a two-day strike. Farmers and electricity engineers supported this anti-privatisation agitation.
In Punjab’s Bathinda district, contractual employees sat outside Guru Hargobind thermal power plant at Lehra Mohabbat to demand regularisation of their jobs. Asha and Anganwari workers joined the strike. Charanjit Kaur of the Anganwari workers union spoke against the government policies while the bankmen opposed the mergers.
In Patiala, PSEB Engineers Association president Jasvir Singh Dhiman asked the government to withdraw the Electricity (Amendment) Bill, 2021, to cancel the privatisation process in Chandigarh, Dadra Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu, and Puducherry. He sought integration of generation, transmission and distribution at the power utilities, besides filling of vacancies and regularisation of jobs. The workers seek old pension scheme for the post-2004 staff and want the government to scrap the new pension plan.
In Karnal, bank closure was more impactful that the brief bus strike. In Panipat as well, the students and bus users were late for their schools and offices, as they had to wait for private buses and taxis. The state bus service resumed by the afternoon and the number of inter-district buses was increased to accommodate the rush of stranded passengers. Police guarded the bus stands. Karnal roadways general manager Kuldeep Singh claimed that 116 buses out of the fleet of 120 were on road.
Panipat roadways general manager Kuldeep Jangra said 50% of his fleet was operational, even though the protesting employee claimed otherwise. The private banks functioned as usual but the public-sector bankmen didn’t go to work, so transactions were stuck, which might delay cheque clearance.
In Ambala, the banks, post offices and roadways suspended their functioning. In Ambala, All-India Bank Officers Association’s Haryana state committee general secretary J S Oberoi led the protest outside Punjab and Sind Bank. He said the Centre had first merged the nationalised banks and now was trying to privatise those. The protesters asked for a higher interest rate on deposits.
In Ambala Cantonment, there was a protest outside the income tax department. Haryana Roadways Karamchari Sanjha Morcha led the Ambala depot strike, asking for recruitment and new buses. The stranded passengers took the Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttar Pradesh buses running via Ambala. In Yamunanagar, the employees resisted the cops who tried to restore bus traffic.
In Chandigarh, Haryana Congress president Selja claimed that by refusing to look into the employees’ demands, the governments had brought trouble upon the general public. She said her party had opposed the privatisation of roadways from the very beginning, while the government was shrinking its fleet and promoting private permits. She claimed that the traders and farmers were also bitter, so the BJP was unlikely to win the next assembly elections. Asking for a hassle-free crop procurement from April 1, besides enough urea and DAP, Selja said: “We haven’t seen a single year out of five when the farmers’ portal ran smooth.”
In Rohtak, the buses remained off road, while the staff raised slogans against the state’s BJP-JJP government. Trade unionist Joginder Balhara said: “We maintained ‘chakka jam’ and allowed no bus to ply.” Surender Pahwa of Rohtak, one of the affected passengers, said he had missed an important business meeting in Sirsa. The trade unions affiliated with the Left parties marched through Rohtak. Haryana Kanungo and Patwari Association president Jaivir Chahal opposed the outsourcing of recruitment and sought a cashless medical claim.

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