Tinsukia: The 24-hour ‘Bharat Bandh’ called by various trade unions affected normal life in upper Assam with most commercial establishments in three major districts – Golaghat, Jorhat and Sivasagar – downing their shutters as public transport remained off the roads.
A total shutdown was also witnessed in the tea gardens of upper Assam after the Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangh (ACMS) lended its support to the nationwide shutdown called by 10 central trade unions (CTUs) to protest against the Centre’s disinvestment policies and scrapping of National Population Register (NPR), Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC), besides demanding the Centre to drop the proposed labour reforms.
Most markets, shops and business establishments were closed in the districts of Golaghat, Jorhat and Sivasagar, while markets in Tinsukia and Dibrugarh districts opened, but there were hardly any buyers.
“When there is hardly any bus or small passenger vehicles plying inter-town, where will customers come from?” asked a shopkeeper in the district headquarters of Tinsukia, who did not wish to be named.
“I had to sent my employee to Oil India Limited in neighbouring Duliajan, but the employee returned after not finding any bus or taxi for around an hour,” he added.
“Middle-class traders like us are the worst hit. Our operating costs are extremely high, the number of days of business is going down ever since CAB protests started,” another businessman from Tinsukia echoed on condition of anonymity, adding, “In December, we hardly had 10 to 12 days of working. In January, out of 8 days till today, we got only 4 days to carry out our business. There were hardly any public transport plying on January 1, markets closed down from 10 to 4 on January 3 for anti-CAA meeting organised by AASU, January 5 was a Sunday and then today.”
However, most schools and government offices functioned almost normally. “There were less attendance in several government offices, as few employees could not reach office, since buses kept off the roads,” claimed a source.
The Assam government on Tuesday issued an advisory to all deputy commissioners requesting them to take necessary steps to ensure normal functioning of all government offices and services during strike call period.
On condition anonymity, the owner of a tea garden in upper Assam told EastMojo, the bandh had a total impact on the tea industry. Tea estate and factories remained closed as there were no workers. “During this part of the year, we undertake pruning of tea plantations, cropping of shade trees, drain maintenance and other outside estate work. In factory, maintenance of tea machineries and shed has been hampered,” the owner added.
Earlier in the day, a joint rally was taken out by various central trade unions in Tinsukia town. ACMS and AITUC also participated in the rally.
Speaking with EastMojo, central president of ACMS and former DONER minister Paban Singh Ghatowar said that the protest is against the anti-people, anti-labour policies of the BJP government. “We demand that our 13-charter demands are met and the government drop the proposed labour reforms,” he said.
“The government has cheated the mandate by trying to sell profit-making public sector companies like Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL),” Ghatowar said, adding: “This government had announced higher wages of Rs 351 to tea workers, but it was another gimmick by them to lure them for their votes.”
“With the protest, we also demand scrapping of Citizenship (Amendment) Act, which is not only unconstitutional, but also anti-people,” Ghatowar said.