Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Indian Postal Life Insurance

Dear Comrades,
Indian Postal Life Insurance is a financial welfare scheme. It is also known as PLI i.e., Postal Life Insurance. It was introduced in 1884 by the Department of Posts, India. It was essentially introduced for the benefit of postal employees and later extended to the employees of Telegraph department in 1888. It is now covering employees of Central & State Governments, Central & State Public Sector undertakings, Universities, Educational institutions and local bodies. 

There are over 155,333 post offices in India. The Department of Posts has been allotted customer care number and Toll Free Number (155232 & 1800 180 5232) for the facility of Postal Life Insurance and Rural Postal Life Insurance policyholders or people planning to opt Post office life insurance. They can also go through post office life insurance review, quotes & use pli calculator to find Insurance premium and Post life insurance agents. 

Any complaint on the services rendered and concerning behavior of employees of the Department of Posts may be taken up with the Postmaster / In-charge of the Post Office where the transaction has taken place or The Post Master General/ Senior Superintendent / Superintendent of Post Offices in whose jurisdiction the Post Office concerned falls. 

The Postal Directorate,
Dak Bhavan,
New Delhi-110116.

29.02.2012 | Author: shubham | Posted in Insurance

Press coverage of One Day Strike in undivided Koraput District

Dear Comrades,

The news coverage done by the print media in the undivided Koraput District in connection with One Day All India Strike on 28th Feb 2012 is published hereunder.

Reinventing the Indian Post Office

Dear Comrades,

More than a hundred and fifty years old organisation, India Post is one of the giant departments of the government of India. With around 155000 post offices it is the biggest postal system in the world employing close to 500,000 people. A vast majority of the post offices – approximately 130000 – are located in the country’s rural recesses and have been instrumental in letting in fresh air into the hinterland. Most were opened during the period of hectic expansion of postal facilities commencing around half a century ago under the department’s commitment to provide to every single person access to basic postal services in a largely poor country at affordable cost – a concept that goes by the name of Universal Service Obligation.

Providing a modicum of communicational facilities in areas that have so far remained untouched by the ever-advancing communication technology most of the rural post offices are, nevertheless, a drain on the public exchequer, highly subsidised as they are, especially those in the backward tribal areas. What is more, several postal products, such as prepaid envelopes, inland letter cards and postcards, are sold at much less than their cost-price for the sake of enabling use by the poor customers, making a further dent in government finances. Being a political decision one cannot, despite the illogic, have any quarrel with it, though the conscious policy makes the department financially sick, more so in the current era of plummeting mail traffic.

Even less than two decades ago one did not visualise the then imminent changes in what is now known as hard messaging system. The digital technology had displayed sufficient progress but none really expected that it would affect messaging profoundly enough to threaten the established way people were communicating and doing business. If it was so in the United States and other economically advanced countries, it was truer in India which was still a laggard in digital technology. The post offices, the carriers of hard messages – conventionally called mail – were then very much in the business of receiving, processing, transporting and delivering them all over the world. Almost all industrialised countries were investing even at that time in advanced technology, with the Japanese system using the optical character readers to sort pre-coded mail. In 1994-95, India Post was, belatedly, in the process of upgrading its mail processing facility at Chennai by installing sorting machines at the Airport to give up the manual system in order to speed up sorting and transmission. Similar action was contemplated in Kolkata, Mumbai already having a mechanised sorting system installed at the Santa Cruz air terminal.

The Post Office is practically nothing minus its mails, which despite its various other functions, is at the core of its business model; its unrelenting efforts to reach the received mail matter to the addressee in the quickest possible time was its core competence. That came under attack from what was yet an unlikely source. While couriers, legal and illegal, were nibbling away at its business, the Post Office, as a more-than-100-year-old government department, was a giant amongst dwarfs and hence did not have anything to fear from them. That the strides made with such great rapidity by the digital communication technology, particularly in a country that even in the closing years of the last century was not tech-savvy, would impinge on its core business was not anticipated by even the prophets of doom. None, curiously, saw the writing on the wall. And, yet slowly but inexorably that started happening.

The country saw convergence of IT and telecommunications with the help of the World Wide Web that acted as a midwife to an era of instant communications. To start with, it was electronic mail – e-mail or Email in common parlance – by which one could exchange messages containing text, images, and videos with multiple addresses. While e-mail was initially restricted only to those who had computers, either personal or in the office or in cyber cafes that proliferated, the cell phone put the means of instant communication into the hands of those who had just a pocket-sized handset. And, India has their owners in millions (850 million, to be more precise) and is still counting. It put in their hands the power of communicating and, in the new lingo, texting to all and sundry having a handset regardless of where one happened to be – in an urban centre or a remote village. With the advent of “smartphones”, technology put virtually a portable computer in the hands of the people with multimedia facility of sending and receiving e-mails and conversing over long distances. Once “cyberspace” became the medium of effective communication with the facility of reducing the message into a “hard copy” the conventional messaging had to take a hit.

And it did. The volume of mail traffic in India fell to 6,677.18 million pieces in 2006-07 from the figure of 15,749.30 million in 1997-98 – a hit of severe proportions. Internationally too, there are clear signs of the Internet eating into postal systems. Developed economies, in particular, saw postal businesses slump and they slumped further with the onset of the 2008 recession. Statistics provided by the Universal Postal Union (UPU) show that between 2008 and 2009 domestic mail volumes were globally down 12 per cent. Obviously, the World Wide Web had a worldwide impact and India was not alone in losing its “bread & butter” business. Its mail volumes dried up making it somewhat of an insignificant player in the nation’s economy. It had to downsize its mail establishment by stopping recruitment. Over a period of a decade and a half the lack of infusion of manpower told on its efficiency. At many places daily multiple mail deliveries were cut down to one and employment of casual workers for want of regulars was unable to lift its sinking image. Whatever mail it received – mostly the documents, periodicals and other 2nd class stuff – got delayed in delivery. Corporations, banks and other mailers, quite predictably, migrated to couriers further impacting the postal traffic.

India Post became a pale and shrinking shadow of itself. Time was when it was acknowledged as one of the finest departments of the government of India in so far as its basic services were concerned. It had a reputation of being straightforward and efficient. Although utterly unglamorous and working a monopoly in transmission of mail matter it had that in-built spirit of service to the community. Its motto was and still is “Service before self”. Its unrelenting efforts to provide ever-improved services made it a very dependable department. With all 1st class mails being flown without any surcharge (not prevalent even in the West) and in-train sorting of letter mail items in almost all trunk and most branch railway routes the department developed an unique capacity to reach most of the letters to distant destinations within 48 hours. Occasionally, letters would reach faster than the then-prevalent telegrams. No wonder, internationally India Post collected a fabulous reputation. The Universal Postal Union, the specialised agency of the United Nations in postal matters, held India in high esteem. It used many of its officers as consultants in developing countries under the concept of Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries (TCDC) so much so that The Statesman Delhi came out with a feature in early 1980s entitled “Join the Postal Service and see the world”. The 60s, 70 and 80s were the glorious decades. Later, unfortunately, the Railways became somewhat difficult. Speeding up the trains and in order to enhance their passenger carrying capacity it did away with the coaches in which mail used to be sorted depriving India Post that edge which had given it its quality. Thereafter, somehow it was downhill, the new technology giving it, seemingly, a decisive push.

But this does not happen to be the entire story. There seems to be a silver lining. The same new technology that robbed it off its business, coupled with the rapid economic growth, is giving rise to what has been dubbed as exponential growth in the volume in mail matter. IndiaKnowledge@Wharton, an online resource that offers the latest business insights, information, and research from a variety of sources, found to its surprise that Pitney Bowes, the U.S.-based provider of mail management services, is bullish about India and has established direct operations in the country – even as official statistics on mail traffic warned of a downward slide. According to IndiaKnowledge@Wharton, Pitney Bowes found that though mail volumes were reportedly declining, business people on the ground felt that it was growing exponentially. “The country's high GDP growth rate, the rapid increase in cell phone subscriber-base, statement-based credit and debit card usage, and computerized billing by utilities were all indicators that mail traffic was in fact going up, not down.” Only it was not being reported as, despite the monopoly on mails of certain weight lots of small-scale couriers were carrying and delivering mail undercutting the department with impunity. Laws being weak and enforcement non-existent India Post is up against illegal competition. Obviously, the need of the hour is enactment of stronger laws and their stricter enforcement to channelise all the mail floating around into the mainstream in a bid to recapture the vibrancy of yore.

The department’s answer to the couriers, the EMS Speed Post, has shown enormous promise since it was introduced in 1986. It handles a billion and three quarters pieces per annum. And yet, a study undertaken in 2008 has shown that couriers in the country have overtaken that figure. A Google search indicates the number of reputed couriers operating in the country. These and thousands of smaller fry tell the story of the depth of the mail market. As a government department, India Post is somehow unable to shed that rigidity which hinders the trapping of all the traffic. Though the heads of circles are of adequately high status they have no power and authority to orient the service to the requirements of local needs. A large portion of the traffic is lost to the private operators for want of local dynamism, inter alia, in making minor adjustments to tariffs for, for instance, bulk bookings or need-based deployment of available human resources for providing greater convenience to customers. The private sector, ever smart and flexible, has, therefore, the field open to them. The department, however, has substantially captured the traffic under another premium service called Business Post that offers value-addition to all business mail in the shape of collection, insertion, addressing, sealing, franking and printing through sophisticated digital technology. The service seems to be doing better than Speed Post and earned a hefty amount (Rs.107077.61 lakh against Rs 57827.74 lakh for Speed Post in 2008). Other new products like Express Post, Retail Post, Satellite Post, etc. have so far failed to make any impression. Perhaps infusion of local autonomy and a little dynamism  is all that is wanted for the Post Office to thrive once again in its mail business.

Modernisation and computerisation is underway in a big way through the Project Arrow to meet the challenges of developments that overtook it a couple of decades back. Regardless of the belated start, mostly because of financial stress, computerised post offices hold out a promise of bridging the budgetary gap, enabling, as it will, to more actively participate in national missions, more so in the rural areas that are now throbbing with developmental activities. It has already become a conduit for payment of wages under the Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and has been roped in to work with Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) as also by the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA) to participate in the New Pension Scheme. Electronically well-equipped post offices would be able to render service under them more efficiently. Postal Life Insurance as also its rural variety are totally computerised. They have captured a very fair share of the market, especially in rural areas, thus providing succour to the weaker sections of the population.

Computerisation underway of savings bank operations, a very major function of the department that it undertakes on behalf of the Ministry of Finance, will in due course help in its aspirations to function as a full-fledged banker for the people, offering a new facet of its activities. Post Office Savings Bank (POSB) is the oldest and the largest banking institution of the country which has taken its small savings operations to even the remote villages. With 225 million accounts and a balance of around Rs.38 trillion POSB has the largest amount of deposits, contributing in a very positive way towards maximising the country’s household savings. With the recent hikes in the rates of interest in the small savings the Bank should get a fillip. If managed professionally – currently a dire need and will be more so if bestowed with the responsibility of carrying out full banking functions – it could become as strong as the Japanese postal bank that happens to be the world’s largest financial institution. For millions of Japanese the post office is the only bank and that which corners about 30% of the country’s household savings. The bid to privatise it shook the Japanese government. Selling savings and insurance products, the Bank is so strong that it supports the country’s public finance. One can only hope that in the immediate future our own postal bank acquires such a stature, imparting a new personality to the Post Office.

For a total makeover, as desired by the Ministers of Communications in the past and the present, the department has to reinvent itself with greater autonomy and professionalism. It is far too weighed down by the political needs of the government of the day even despite the disconnect that they have with the current realities. If subsidies can be cut down or discontinued in other sectors the same approach could be adopted towards postal business to unshackle the department and unburden the government. It is high time that the unremunerative offices are closed down wherever possible and tariffs of postal products and services are brought around close enough to reflect their costs in the current highly inflationary economy. This will release resources for their re-deployment to raise enough revenues to make the whole gamut of postal operations self-sustaining, maybe even earn profits, a commercial organisation as it is though fulfilling social needs. The use of the same technology that hit it is so hard will go a long way to put it again on firm footing.

For achieving all that, however, what seems to be necessary is giving the department enough independence or even to corporatize it with the specific mandate of striking a balance between rendering service to earn profits and, simultaneously, to fulfil the needs of progressively scaled-down Universal Service Obligation in view of the country's now-rising living standards.
Earlier published in "Upkram", a periodical public sector enterprises

28.2.2012 Strike - News from West Bengal

Dear Comrades,

The working class including our employees has entered a new era of struggle against the anti-people policies of Central Govt. through unique success in 28th Feb,2012- strike. In West Bengal the State Govt and the Administration practically took drastic stand against the strike and measures to break strike by any means. Being encouraged the main ruling political forces also induced anarchism throughout the state. But the fact is that in spite of severe threats and mental pressure, the success of to-day’s strike is unprecedented.

In our jurisdiction, truly speaking we are proud of our employees. We are really happy to convey our comradely greetings and Red Salute to the postal employees. It is mainly our brave comrades, organizers working in different branches/divisions in an alarming state of affairs and our general employees irrespective of unions took part in strike and made it a grand success. As per the official communiqué, 90% of the employees including GDS in out Circle  participated in strike directly. Com M Krishnan, our beloved Secretary General has also conveyed his congratulations and red salute to us.
          It is our experience that for last 4/5 days the ruling political force has been threatening the employees in work-spots and residences to open the Post Offices on 28-2-2012. In the last 30 to 35 years it is new phenomenon that the ruling party has perpetrated hooliganism against the Govt officials who supported the strike. Midnapore H.O., Siliguri H.O., Baruipur H.O., Chinsura H.O., Arambag H.O., Contai H.O., Malda H.O., Burdwan H.O., Purulia H.O. etc. are such examples where the concerned Postmasters were compelled to open the Post Offices under the pressure and threats. But even in these offices almost all the officials refused to attend the office and firmly took part in strike.

Role of Police :
      We are surprised to note that in case of Moynaguri S.O. under Jalpaiguri Dn, the Police behaved as like as ruling political forces. At the dictate of that force, the police rushed to the residence of striking Postmaster, picked him up and paved him to open the office . Here also the employees remained absent from office taking part in strike. Now the serious question is that whether the Police can act in such a manner as they did in Moynaguri. Obviously not. So what will be the future of law and order situation in our state ,we can easily guess. Almost same are the experiences we gathered in PSD Kolkata, Durgapur H.O., Belghoria H.O., Chakdah S.O., Nalikul S.O., Tarakeswar S.O., Mohanpur B.O. ( Contai Dn).

Political Hooliganism 1 :
           In Belghoria H.O. , when the Postmaster was attacked , Com Rina Saha our beloved leader came hurriedly from her house to rescue the Postmaster. We are shocked to mention that she was also attacked and hackled by the miscreants. Finally the office was opened , but neither Com Rina Saha nor concerned Postmaster deviated from their stand and took part in the strike. May be the restraint of Com Rina Saha has been hurt, but her unique role is encouraging to all of us.

Political Hooliganism 2 :
            In Tamluk Divn , 50/60 miscreants rushed to the residence of Com Jitendranath Hatai, President of P-III, Tamluk (NFPE). But at that time he was not available in his house, but other members including his wife and two daughters were available. Without caring the female members those miscreants broke the house of Com Hatai to take revenge only because Com Hatai took part in strike. Red salute to Com Hatai that even after this torture on him or his family , he refused to open Tamluk H.O. and finally, Tamluk H.O. was not opened. Same pressure was also to open Srirampore H.O., but it is our comrades and employees who did not bend down under tremendous pressure and finally kept Srirampore H.O. closed.

Circle Office :
          Yogayog Bhawan, our circle head quarters was opened , but except a few higher level officers, the staff of Yogayog Bhawan did not turn up and took part in strike spontaneously.

           In MMS/RMS, DPLI and Postal Accounts also most of the employees participated in the strike ignoring the threats.

Brave Comrades in far-flung areas :
           In Sikkim Division also, the strike was almost 100%.

The Assessment
           The alarming incidents we have faced today exposed the anti-working class as well as anti-democratic attitude of the ruling political forces in West Bengal. There are sufficient reasons to apprehend that this will be intensified. We, the working class have to prepare ourselves to fight against any kind of draconian attack.

            In respect of all India scenario we have received so far, the strike of the whole working class is a great success and the role postal employees have played to participate in the strike is historic one .We convey our heartiest greetings to Federations and JCA and to the general employees.

The Program in Condemnation :
           Protest against the above mentioned incidents in WB Circle. Hold massive demonstration (DHIKKAR SABHA) at recess hours on 01-03-2012 or 2-3-2012 at every work spots and send savingram to CPMG, Respective PMG and Head of the Divn.

Text of the Savingram

(President of the meeting)

NB: Divl Secretaries are requested to take the programme seriously and also requested to send a detailed report in respect of 28th Strike to the each circle union within short period. All Divl/Br Secys are requested to bring these incidents to the notice of general members.

Strike Hits Transport, Banking in Punjab, Haryana

Dear Comrades,

Public transport, banking and insurance services were hit in Punjab, Chandigarh and Haryana due to the day-long strike called by major trade unions against the "anti-labour" policies of the Centre today.

However, industrial workers in both the states turned up for work in private factories, reports said.

Employees of several organisations, including postal department, BSNL, insurance also participated in the strike while members of CITU with the support of workers of brick klin, Anganvari, Mid-Day meal scheme carried out protest march at several places.

No untoward incident was reported from the region as the protests and demonstrations remained peaceful.

The major impact of the strike was felt on public transport sector of Haryana where 40-50 per cent of 3,500-fleet of state-owned roadways buses remained off the road.

Fatehabad, Hisar, Jind, Yamuna Nagar, Sonepat and Kaithal districts were the most affeected, a senior official of Haryana Transport Department said.

Striking employees of public transport service in Punjab and Chandigarh did not ply buses between 12 and 2 pm.

"The schedule of buses was disrupted only for two hours from 12 pm and during the remaining part of the day buses plied as per schedule," a senior official of Punjab Transport Department said.

An official of Chandigarh Transport department claimed that the strike affected plying of buses on few inter-state routes.

With major bank unions observing one-day strike, financial transactions came to a halt in all the branches of public sector banks. However, banking services in private sector were not affected.

The strike by the public sector banks had an adverse impact on business activities of industries in Punjab and Haryana as financial services were hit.

Bank unions had given a strike calls to protest against outsourcing of non-core activities to private sector, among other things.

Due to the strike, cheques worth several crores of rupees remained uncleared in the public sector banks as clearing houses operated by nationalised banks did not open, said a bank employee.

Agitating bank employees also carried out rally at Ludhiana to press for their demands.

All the 240 branches of Haryana Gramin Banks in the state remained closed, a spokesman of Haryana Gramin Bank Officers Association claimed.

A report from Yamuna Nagar in Haryana said employees of PWD department, tourism department, municipal councils participated in the strike, though employees of Indian Overseas Bank stayed away from the strike call.

CITU Punjab General Secretary Raghunath Singh claimed that the one-day strike received massive response from various workers of FCI, forest, brick klin sectors.

Mails may dip but India’s postmen will go on

Dear Comrades,

The postman’s knock on sleepy afternoons was an event of some importance in Indian towns not long ago. It meant that either a money order or a registered post had arrived. Since the advent of the electronic age, however, the importance of the world’s most widely distributed postal service with more than 1,50,000 post offices has declined. Seeing how e-mails and the private courier services were making inroads into the 324-year-old postal business, Indian Post introduced innovations like the speed post, e-payments of telephone, electricity and other bills, and even spruced up some of the post offices, which used to have the typically cheerless ambience of public sector organisations. But, the decline has continued.

It is just as well, therefore, that the authorities have decided to use postal employees for various other services, including data collection from small shops to help in the compilation of figures relating to inflation. Since post offices were not only engaged in sending and receiving letters and parcels, but also acted as banks and provided financial services such as savings schemes like the public provident fund and the vikas patras, the employees are well versed in various occupations — all of them calling for meticulousness and integrity.If they now take up other duties as well along with the existing ones, the services will acquire a fresh lease of life and perhaps even relive periods when the postal department scored several firsts. These included setting up the highest post office in the world at 15,500 feet in Himachal Pradesh, flying the first airmail service on February 18, 1911, and establishing the first floating post office on the Dal Lake in Srinagar. The dakiya is the descendant of the ‘runner’, who carried mail from town to town through the night braving thugs and wild animals in the days before the railway network was well established. Since then, his life has improved — and may improve further as his worth is realised.

Postal, telecom services hit

Dear Comrades,

Customer services in postal and telecom sector were affected on Tuesday with non-executive class of India Post and Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) participating in the nationwide strike called by 11 central trade unions on Tuesday. 

Customer services such as delivery and counter operations in post offices were affected in Bangalore East, Shimoga, Hassan, Belgaum and Raichur according to S.S. Manjunath Circle Secretary All India Postal Employees' Union (AIPEU). 

He said that over 5,000 employees belonging to various trade unions abstained from work in protest against the anti-labour and anti-people policies of the Centre, thus affecting services. 

The situation at the Customer Service Centres of BSNL was no different. People found it difficult to pay their bills and get their mobile phones recharged as 16,000 non-executive staff of BSNL abstained from work in support of CTU demands. 

Speaking to The Hindu, C.K. Gundanna, Circle Secretary, BSNLEU, Karnataka Circle, said that over 16 trade unions to which non-executives of BSNL were affiliated participated in the strike, and counter services were completely disrupted.

Strike hits transactions worth Rs 300cr

Dear Comrades,

LUCKNOW: Financial transactions worth nearly Rs 2,500 crore were affected as employees of banks and various post offices across the state in association with central trade unions went on a strike on Tuesday. The protesting employees were demanding end to contract labour, amendment to Minimum Wages Act, increase the gratuity payout and compulsory registration of trade unions within 45 days. The employees also demanded compensatory service to a family member in case of death of an employee.
In Lucknow alone, the transaction loss was estimated to be around Rs 300 crore.

This includes the government as well as the business and industry transactions. Various post offices, including the general post office (GPO) in the state capital remained closed. This has not only affected postal services, but also payment of bills towards undertakings such as the Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL), which have their counters at the GPO. Employees of BSNL too joined the strike.

Some of the post offices were opened, but employees refused to work citing strike. In case of few others, gates were closed and no one was allowed to enter the premises. Rajbir Singh, a business executive dealing electronic goods said that the payments made towards the company were badly hit.
The strike, however, did not have any impact on the crucial establishments like the Amausi airport. Authorities said that none of the employees were part of the striking associations. However, as a precautionary measure, authorities did inform about the situation of the district administration as well as the police.

District president of National Confederation of Bank Employees' Federation (NCBEF), Tahir Ali, meanwhile, termed the strike "successful".

"The strike was peaceful and successful," he said, and added that except All India Bank Officers Association, all other seven unions were part of the strike. Ali also said that around Rs 400 crores remained suspended and could not be cleared at the Punjab National Bank (PNB).

While officers of State Bank of India (SBI) remained at their seats, it was the class III employees who refrained from work.

It was essentially the NCBEF, the umbrella association of all bank employees, which called the strike.
Soon, other associations, backed by central trade unions like All India Trade Union Congress and Indian National Trade Union Congress, joined them.

Agitating employees say that they have been raising their demands for the past two years.

"However, neither the management nor the ministry gave a heed to it. This forced us to go on a strike," Ali said. Employees were also peeved with the outsourcing mechanism, which they claim has hit the industry severely.

"At the same time our working conditions have deteriorated," said Alok Tewari a bank employee.

Strike cripples daily life Banking, insurance sector cos worst affected AIBEA likely to strike next month

Dear Comrades,

Work came to a halt in most public sector banks and insurance companies and road transport services crawled in large parts of India as millions of workers participated in the one-day general strike called today by all the eleven Central Trade Unions (CTUs).

The strike, first since independence to bring all the CTUs on a single platform, was to protest increased prices of food items, rising unemployment, frequent violation of labour laws and contractualisation of workforce in the government and private companies.

Gurudas Dasgupta, general secretary of the All India Trade Union Congress described today’s strike as ‘unprecedented’ and ‘overwhelming’. Dasgupta warned the government of submitting to the trade unions’ demands. “I hope the government listens to us, otherwise, there will be another such strike.”

Banking and insurance sector companies were the worst affected as clerical staff in all major public sector banks and insurance companies abstained from work. According to C H Venkatachalam, general secretary, All India Bank Employee Association, over 800,000 employees of public and private sector banks, Reserve Bank of India and regional co-operative banks, participated in the strike. Another 40,000 workers in the public sector insurance companies also participated in the strike.

“The strike in the banks was a total success,” Venkatachalam said. “Work in RBI and State Bank of India was seriously affected due to the strike. In most banks, cash transactions, cheque clearing, foreign exchange operations and government transactions could not be carried out due to the strike,” he added.
However, most banks remained open as a major officers’ union, All India Bank Employee Association (AIBEA), didn’t take part in the strike. It is believed that the AIBEA will go on a separate strike opposing banking sector reforms in March.

Road transport services in most states were also affected with unions of state government transport corporations supporting the strike. However, air traffic and rail services largely remained unaffected.
Tax collections were also partially hit as workers in the Income Tax department joined the strike. Though the unions claimed that a large number of Group C, Group D and gazetted officers went on strike, all offices of the I-T department were open.

Work was also affected at all the major ports and docks of the country with all five major workers’ unions of ports and dock workers participating in the strike. The operations at the Mumbai Port Trust and the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) were affected. JNPT, which handles 60 per cent of the total container traffic in the country, saw a drop of 75 per cent in cargo handling. Work was also affected at the Vishakhapatnam port.

Partial work was affected at Coal India Limited (CIL) and its subsidiaries. “Out of the total 453 running mines, 413 mines were open while the remaining 40 were closed. Out of the closed mines, majority is from the Western Coalfields. In other subsidiaries, there was not too much of an impact,” said R Mohandas, director (personnel) of CIL.

However, Shyamal Chakravarty, state president of Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) claimed that the bandh was a success. “Seven flights were cancelled and people did not turn up for work in support of the bandh, which was a complete success,” he claimed.

Normal life was affected in Kerala despite the state government’s enforcement of ‘dies non’ (no-work-no-play) order against the strike. Reports from the state said transport, banking and government’s business were disrupted in the state.

In West Bengal, chief minister Mamata Banerjee made all possible efforts to maintain normal life largely ensuring adequate transport services. However, the efforts of the government failed as most transport services saw fewer passengers.

In Kolkata, most shops, markets and business establishments were closed. While, five people were reportedly injured at Barasat in North 24 Parganas in a political clash, there were also reports that the Trinamool Congress workers allegedly vandalised CPI(M)’s zonal committee office at Jadavpur. Some journalists were also injured, in the political clash at Jadavpur, in south Kolkata. However, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee denied any such incident.

“All these were planned and staged,” Banerjee said. She ‘congratulated’ common people of the state for making the general strike ‘unsuccessful’. “This is the beginning of the end of the bandh regime,” she said. Banerjee claimed there was “98 to 100 per cent attendance in all government offices in the state”.

With inputs from Kolkata and Hyderabad bureau

Central trade unions strike likely to bring India to a standstill

Dear Comrades,

NEW DELHI: Having rejected the Centre's belated bid to persuade them to drop their plan for the 24-hour general strike on Tuesday, central trade unions commanding the allegiance of lakh of workers stepped up their efforts to turn the protest into a crippling nationwide shutdown.

Life will be severely impacted for 24 hours if the general strike called by trade unions cutting across party lines and ideologies succeed in pulling off the show of strength and solidarity in support of their demands: an end to contract labour, amendment to Minimum Wages Act, increase the gratuity payout and compulsory registration of trade unions within 45 days.

Whether it is the Delhi Jal Board or the cities' auto-rickshaw unions or petrol pumps or flights - all are likely to be hit by the strike, say TU leaders from AITUC, BMS and INTUC. The other sectors that are likely to be affected by the strike are the oil and gas industry, the financial sector including banks and insurance, the aviation sector defence (Ordnance factories), post and telecom sector, ports, state government offices, income tax department and traders, said strikers. For the first time, Bharat Electronics and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) will be taking part in the stir, claimed TU leaders.

"We could achieve this unity when all the trade unions and workers realized by over the last two years that going on their own has not helped since the government has refused to pay heed to our demands. Workers are facing a very severe situation," said Gurudas Dasgupta, AITUC chief and senior CPI leader.

Apprehending that the strike will send out a wrong message against the government and its reforms agenda, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had called INTUC leader G Sanjeeva Reddy on Friday evening for talks. While it seemed like an attempt to break the Congress's union away from the array of striking unions, Reddy refused to meet the PM, unless he invited other TU leaders, who have joined hands to call the strike. Eleven central TU and about 5,000 small unions are part of the biggest formation of TUs that have called Tuesday's strike. "My message to the government is that it won't make a difference by talking to me alone. If all the leaders are called then there is a possibility of finding a solution to this," Reddy told TOI. He added, "The strike will be a total success as so many unions have come together."

The date was decided last November to coincide with the tabling of the Union budget, but that got postponed because of the assembly poll dates.

"We want industrial peace. We have been compelled to go on strike... workers also lose their wages... strike is the last option for us," Dasgupta said, adding, "we want industry, let there be FDI in the productive sector, let them make profit, but they must abide by Indian laws and accept collective bargaining."

The PM and labour minister Malikarjun Kharge were present at the labour conference on February 14 and 15, where the TU leaders spoke in their presence of the demands and of the call to strike work, said Dasgupta. "Even if the government called us 15 days ago we would have reconsidered calling a strike, but that never happened," he said.

Apart from the BMS, INTUC, CITU, AITUC, HMS, AIUTUC, AICCTU, UTUC, TUCC, LPF, SEWA are the central TUs that have come together for the strike. While TUs affiliated to the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra and the IUML in Kerala are also part of the grouping.

Kharge has appealed to the TUs to call off the strike, saying "most of the issues raised by the trade unions have already been addressed... however I do assure that I am open to discussions on any issues relating to labour at any time and resolve the same through consultations." He added, "The proposed strike will not only cause colossal economic loss to the country bit also bring hardship and inconvenience to the common man."

All-India strike poses fresh challenge to govt

Dear Comrades,

NEW DELHI — A nationwide strike called by trade unions including those affiliated with the government hit Indian cities Tuesday, as millions joined the call for tighter labour laws and a minimum wage.

Eleven central trade unions backed the strike call, posing a fresh challenge to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his leftist administration, which had called on the unions to call off the show of force.

"This is a historic occasion. For the first time all the big trade unions have come together to protest the anti-labour polices of the government," All India Trade Union Congress general secretary Gurudas Dasgupta told AFP.

Among the unions' demands are a national minimum wage, permanent jobs for 50 million contract labourers, more government efforts to rein in the rising cost of living, and an end to the sale of stakes in profitable public companies.

"We gave the government ample opportunity to discuss these issues. Now striking is the only option before us," Dasgupta said.

"We are fighting for our rights against a government that is anti-people," he added.

Singh's government, already tainted by a series of high-profile corruption scandals, has struggled to keep inflation in single digits at a time when the economy is growing at its slowest rate for three years.

Transport, banking and postal services were all hit by the 24-hour strike that began midnight Monday.

In Kolkata, a traditional trade union stronghold, most bank branches, shops and other businesses were closed, with taxis and rickshaws staying off the streets.

But the city's metro was working normally, and West Bengal's firebrand Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who had denounced the strike call, brought 1,000 state-owned buses into the city to ease the transport problem.

Kolkata police chief R.K. Pachnanda said 10,000 police officers had been deployed across the city, including special units in government offices, bus depots and metro stations to prevent intimidatory picketing by union activists.

The Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency said about 100 pro-strike supporters had been arrested in different districts for obstructing rail and road traffic.

In Mumbai, the financial capital of India, All India Bank Employees Association general secretary Vishwas Utagi claimed there was a "complete shutdown" in the banking sector.

The clearing house for transactions at the central bank had been shut, "so the private and foreign banks where we do not a have a presence, also get affected," he told Press Trust of India agency.

Elsewhere, the state government, railways and the city public bus service employees were largely unaffected, while schools and colleges were open.

In New Delhi, traffic was lighter than usual and people arriving at the capital's main railway station struggled to find transport to other areas of the city.

Just a couple of staff had reported for work at a branch of the Bank of India, a public bank, in the centre of the capital which was open, but no business was being carried out.

"We are backing the protest because the demands are legitimate," said one bank clerk who had reported for duty.
Business lobby group ASSOCHAM condemned the strike and said losses could be up to 100 billion rupees (2 billion dollars).

"Industrial strikes cause huge losses to the national exchequer and should not be there as the country strives to achieve 9 percent GDP growth in the coming years," secretary general D.S. Rawat said in a statement.

G. Sanjeeva Reddy, president of the Indian National Trade Union Congress, affiliated to Singh's Congress party, said it was time the government lent them an ear.

"Our most important demand is the abolition of contract labour and a check on the uncontrolled increase in prices," said Reddy.

"We will study the reaction of the government to this strike before deciding on our future course of action," he told AFP.

Down south in the state of Kerala, the Congress-led state government enforced "dies non" (no work-no pay) order against the employees, PTI said.

Nationwide Strike Targets India's Economic Policies

Dear Comrades,

Workers from the National Federation of Indian Railwaymen (NFIR) shout slogans during a protest rally in Mumbai February 28, 2012.
Photo: Reuters 
Workers from the National Federation of Indian Railwaymen (NFIR) shout slogans during a protest rally in Mumbai February 28, 2012.
A number of key Indian economic sectors were temporarily crippled Tuesday by a nationwide strike to protest government labor policies and inflation. The strike is unprecedented to the extent it unified a number of politically opposed groups, including those affiliated with the ruling coalition itself.

Transport, financial and postal services ground to a halt in many parts of India, as 11 central trade unions stayed off the job to protest what they call "anti-labor" policies of the central government.

The nationwide strike is a setback for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's Congress party-led government, as its leaders ignored personal pleas from Mr. Singh and other senior officials not to proceed.

G. Sanjeeva Reddy is the president of the Indian National Trade Union Congress, the central trade union affiliated with the Congress party. He says Tuesday's strike showed a unity which is historically unprecedented.

"This time, they all joined together. After independence, this is the first time all trade unions have come together and gone on strike," he said.

Workers from a wide range of public sectors are demanding the government curtail its hiring of contract workers, which they say deprives permanent workers of a livelihood. They also want the government to stop privatizing state-run companies.

Trade Union Congress President Reddy says the lack of a mandated minimum wage and a social safety net for India's 300 million non-unionized workers are also major concerns.

"No political angle. It is purely a labor strike for the industrial workers' demands," he said.

Union leaders say they will measure the government's reaction to Tuesday's strike before deciding on any future action. The possibility of similar strikes in months ahead adds pressure to a government already confronting the slowest rate of economic growth India has experienced for years.

Efforts to stimulate the economy, especially by encouraging foreign direct investment, have been politically gridlocked by debates surrounding major corruption cases that have emerged during the present government.

Live: Mixed response to all-India strike in Gujarat

Dear Comrades,

The nation-wide strike called by trade unions, received a mixed response here with banking and insurance sectors functioning at half its strength, and transportation remaining unaffected.
According to State Bank of India spokesperson, all the clerical staff and non-supervisory staff were on strike, while all officers were on duty.
Due to the strike, banking operations have been affected across the state and the city, as branches were open but there was nobody to conduct the transactions.
All central government offices saw partial attendance with most of the clerical and lower level staff not turning up. However, top officials remained present in offices.
The Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) run buses were operating as per schedule. However, their frequency were reduced in anticipation of violence.
There were protest marches and demonstrations at the Labour Commissioners office in Lal Darwaja area by members of the over 22 trade unions in the city.
Also, number of rallies are scheduled in the city in support of the 24-hour strike later in the day.
All-India strike 'partially' hits operations; most PSU banks remain openOperations in public sector banks were partially affected due to the day-long strike called by a section of bank unions to protest against outsourcing of non-core activities to private sector, among other things.
Most of the PSU bank branches in major cities were open, but the attendance remained thin as majority of clerical staff abstained from work.
Although the PSU bank unions claimed that operations were badly hit with employees going on strike, the managements maintained that only some clerical staff did not report on duty.
The strike by bank employees is part of the one-day all-India general strike, called by major central trade unions.
The bank unions are also protesting against unilateral imposition of Khandelwal Committee recommendations with regard to human resources issues and outsourcing of jobs. Their demand also include enactment of stringent and effective measures to recover bad loans.
State Bank of India's Deputy General Manager R Dipankar Basu said while branch operations have been partially hit as clerical staff are not attending office, officers are present in full strength.
When asked about the impact on business, he said it is too early to say anything.
All-India Bank Employees Association convenor CH Venkatachalm, however, termed the impact of the strike a complete success as clearing houses remained totally paralysed with unions of Reserve Bank and SBI participating in the strike.
"We thank all the unions for their full participation and making it a grand success," Venkatachalam told PTI over phone from Chennai, in the middle of a protest rally.
Normal life partially hit in AssamNormal services are likely to be affected in Tamil Nadu on Tuesday as eleven major trade union wings are participating in the nation-wide strike call pressing for various demands.
It is the first time since Independence that trade unions have joined hands for a strike over a series of issues from the Government's liberalisation policy.
The government had last week appealed to the unions to desist from going on strike with Labour Minister Mallikarjun Kharge saying they were ready to discuss the matter.
Though Kharge has reportedly said most of the issues concerned were addressed, he had assured them of sorting out those issues, related to labour.
However, the trade Unions turned down the request.
Eleven major trade unions including Congress affiliated INTUC, Shiv Sena-backed Bharatiya Kamgar Sena and UPA ally Indian Union Muslim League's trade-wing STU, Hind Mazdoor Sabha, Employees Federation of LIC, DMK's Labour Progressive Front are participating in the dawn-to-dusk strike.
The strike has been called to register protest against rising prices of essential commodities and to make demands including disinvestment of Public Sector Undertakings, amendments to the Minimum Wages Act and compulsory registration of trade unions.
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