Kolkata, Aug 20 : A nationwide strike called by the Left-backed trade unions today paralyzed normal life in West Bengal and Kerala, disrupting air and rail traffic.
With the ruling Left Front supporting the strike, called by eight trade unions and 40 employees' federations to protest against the "anti-labour policies of the Centre", turned out to be a complete shutdown in these states.
While no flight landed in Kolkata, flight services from the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport were hit after employees of the airport joined the strike in protest against the airport privatisation.
The Airport Authority Employees' Union (AAEU), under which all airport employees have gone on strike, has been demanding that there should be no further privatisation or leasing out of other AAI airports in the country and the rationalisation of pay scale of executives and non-executive staff and filling of vacant posts.
The Indian Air Force (IAF) has deployed 250 skilled personnel to maintain safety and fire services at 21 airfields across the country. According to reports, train services were disrupted following protesters squatting on the rail track at several places. However, no untoward incident was reported from any part of the state. Many long-distance express trains were kept waiting at various stations and several trains were cancelled.
Public transport like buses, trams, taxis and auto-rickshaws largely stayed off the roads. Additional policemen and Rapid Action Force personnel were deployed in the city to maintain law and order.
Meanwhile, in Kerala train services were disrupted at many places. Shops and business establishments remained closed with buses, taxis and autorickshaws keeping off the roads. However, the strike did not affect flights from the airport here.
The unions supporting the general strike are the All-India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), Hind Mazdoor Sabha, All-India Central Council of Trade Union, Trade Union Coordination Centre and All-India United Trade Union Centre.
The Bharatiya Janata Party backed Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) and the Congress supported Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC) are abstaining from the protest.
The unions have a six-point charter of demands, which includes curbing inflation, a comprehensive Unorganised Workers Bill, loan-waiver scheme for farmers, proper implementation of labour laws, removal of anomalies in the Sixth Pay Commission among other things.