Thiruvananthapuram: As has been the normal practice in recent years, yet another strike morphed into a statewide shutdown in Kerala on Tuesday, affecting businesses, common people and the government functioning.
The two-day nationwide labour strike that began on Tuesday to protest the policies of India’s federal government virtually shut down all activities in the state. Despite assurances of leaders ahead of the strike that shops would not be forcibly closed or transport facilities stopped, it was another day of near-total stoppage in Kerala.
Last year, Kerala had witnessed as many as 97 shutdowns, prompting the Kerala Chamber of Commerce and Industry to petition the high court against the problem.
The disruption on Tuesday began early in the morning when supporters of the strike blocked trains in the state capital, Thiruvananthapuram. Many trains, including the Venad Express were halted by the strikers, which in turn led to delays across the railway system in the state and even outside the state.
Trains were also blocked at Alappuzha, Tripunithura, Palakkad and Shoranur. The Kerala Road Transport Corporation buses also went off the roads, following a series of attacks on its vehicles when the Sabarimala Karma Samiti (action committee) and the Bharatiya Janata Party imposed a shutdown last week.
Trade union leaders had assured that they would not block workers who turned up for work, but that promise was broken almost everywhere. In Kochi alone, workers who turned up at the Cochin Port, the Special Economic Zone and at the Indian Oil Corporation were stopped by strike supporters.
“We are not forcing anyone to stay off work. Because of the harmful policies of the federal government, workers themselves will decide to stay off work”, said Centre of Indian Trade Unions leader Anathalavattom Anandan.
One silver lining was that some shops could function in Kozhikode’s Mithai Street and at Broadway in Kochi. The Kerala Vyapari Vyavasayi Ekopana Samiti which represents traders in the state had vowed not to participate in the strike.
The two-day strike has dealt another blow to the state’s tourism industry that is already reeling under a series of setbacks including the closure of liquor bars, the outbreak of the Nipah virus and the floods in August last year.
Further hurting tourism in the state, the UK and the US have issued travel advisories to their citizens visiting Kerala. The advisories have come in the backdrop of violence associated with the Sabarimala pilgrimage, with some devotees attempting to block women pilgrims despite India’s Supreme Court scrapping the gender discrimination against women at the hill shrine.