New Delhi:  The nation-wide strike against government's "anti-labour" policies and price rise did not create much ripples in Delhi on Tuesday but it ended up burning a hole in the pocket of commuters who were fleeced by auto drivers who hit the streets late in the afternoon.

Functioning of PSU banks was affected and a number of autos and taxi drivers kept their vehicles off the roads as the 24-hour strike called by all major unions to protest government's "anti-labour" policies, price rise and disinvestment of PSUs.

Though DTC officials claimed they have operated extra buses to help passengers, commuters complained that frequency of the state-run buses was low. They complained that most of the buses which were plying were overcrowded.

Many bank customers were left at sea as employees of PSU banks refused to conduct transactions as part of the protest. Employees of RBI in the capital held a protest outside their office and shouted slogans against the policies of the government.

Most of the PSU bank branches in major cities were open, but the attendance remained thin as majority of clerical staff abstained from work.

Auto and taxi union leaders said they were participating in the strike to protest against the government policies towards them. They alleged the government was doing nothing for setting up a welfare board as ordered by the Supreme Court.

"The strike may be for a noble cause but common man had to suffer. The auto drivers overcharged us. From Barakhamba to Parliament Street which is just two kilometres, an auto driver charged me Rs 60 instead of Rs 19 on metre," said Anumita Singh, a private bank employee.

Unions leaders, who have rejected appeals to desist from the strike, said all 11 major trade unions including Congress- affiliated INTUC, Shiv Sena-backed Bharatiya Kamgar Sena and UPA ally Indian Union Muslim League's trade-wing STU have joined hands to make the strike a success.

The unions are demanding no contractorisation of work -- whether of permanent or perennial nature, amendment of Minimum Wages Act, assured pension for all and compulsory registration of trade union among others.

In a bid to ensure that power supply in the capital remains uninterrupted during the strike, Delhi government had last night clamped ESMA on all power companies, including that of generation and distribution.

According to a statement issued by CPI-backed AITUC, employees on strike halted traffic at ITO crossing for about an hour. The protest was led by Amarjeet Kaur, Dhirendra Sharma and Dinesh Varshney.

The workers from Industrial areas in Okhla, Mayapuri, Naraina, Kirti Nagar, Mongolpuri, Bawana, Wajirpur, Jhilmil, Patparganj took out procession, the statement said.

The workers and employees of banks and insurance firms also held a protest on Parliament Street.

The AITUC claimed that thousands of auto-rickshaws and 20,000 taxis went off the road due to strike. The employees of DTC unions also held a rally at IP Depot, it said.

According to the statement, BMS workers also halted a few trains near Narela and Shahdara.

Strike affects commercial capital

 The one-day strike call given by 11 central trade unions affected the commercial capital with commercial banks reporting lower attendance and loading/unloading operations at both the ports taking a hit.

With bank unions being at the forefront of the strike call, banks witnessed thin attendance though branches of even public sector lenders were open.
The operations at Mumbai Port Trust and the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust were hit. The JNPT, which handles as much as 60 percent of the total container traffic in the country witnessed a 75 percent drop in cargo handling at its berths as also those operated by the private operator DP World, deputy chairman N N Kumar said.

He said the cargo which will have piled up as a result of the strike will be cleared after 6 pm when strike ends.

The older Mumbai Port also saw trouble in loading and unloading with operations "partially affected", deputy chairman Shree Kant Singh said.

A few branches of Bank of India and Union Bank of India were forced to down the shutters while State Bank said only some of the clerical staff did not turn up.

Insurance giant LIC said all its offices in the city functioned normally as its development officers in the Western zone had not supported the strike, executive director S Roychowdhury said.

About 1,000 wholesale traders at Navi Mumbai's vegetable wholesale market which serves the entire metropolis, downed shutters due to the strike, president of Federation of Association of Maharashtra Mohan Gurnani said.

 The impact was "limited" at APMC market as only a few of the workers struck work, he said.

 To the relief of the metropolis, suburban trains, buses as well as the taxis and autos ran as usual allowing for a smooth transport as they were not included in the strike call.

The trade unions had given the call for strike demanding ban on contract work, amendment to the Minimum Wages Act, assured pension for all and compulsory registration of trade union among others.

The government had last week appealed to the unions, which belong to the ruling Congress, and the Opposition BJP as well as Left parties, to desist from going on strike with labour minister Mallikarjun Kharge promising dialogue with them on all labour-related issues but union leaders rejected the call stating  the government had enough opportunity earlier to sit with them and discuss the issues.

(Agencies)