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Normal life brought to a standstill by National Bandh today

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By NewsGram Staff Writer

13feb-bandh-01

New Delhi:  The industrial workforce along with a myriad of blue collar employees struck their work. For the first time a nationwide strike has completely and successfully halted the pace of the normal life since PM Modi came into power in 2014.

Leaders of central trade unions which called the day-long strike claimed “unprecedented success” as banks, insurance companies and state-run as well as private factories shut across the country. Transport unions and traders too joined the protest in many places, leading to the closure of educational institutions and thin attendance in government offices.

“The response has been unprecedented,” veteran union leader Gurudas Dasgupta from the All India Trade Union Congress told a media outlet. “In Delhi we are seeing such an impact for the first time. We didn’t expect this.”

The strike is in support of 12 demands, including withdrawal of labour law amendments, a minimum wage of Rs.15,000 a month and against privatisation of public sector units. Unions said about 300 million workers were involved in the protest.

The strike was largely peaceful except in parts of West Bengal where clashes were reported in Murshidabad, Howrah and North 24 Parganas between Left activists and members of the ruling Trinamool Congress.

Financial services were hit hard as lakhs of bank and insurance employees – including those from cooperative banks and regional rural banks – joined the strike, All India Bank Employees Association general secretary C.H. Venkatachalam told the media in Chennai.

He said the strike was a success in major cities like Mumbai, the country’s financial capital, as well as New Delhi, Chennai and Kolkata.

But unions in State Bank of India and Indian Overseas Bank did not take part.

In Mumbai, union leader V. Utagi said: “The strike in the banking and financial services sector is near total. Work at Mumbai Port Trust is hit. And Maharashtra’s 1.50 million government employees have joined us.”

But public buses and Mumbai’s suburban trains plied though their unions lent “moral support” to the strike. A section of cabs and auto-rickshaws in Mumbai also joined the strike, which Utagi said was “a major success”.

In Delhi, banks, insurance companies and industrial areas observed a shutdown. Most auto-rickshaws, the poor man’s taxi, went off the roads. But Delhi Metro reported normal operations.

The strike hit hard life in Kerala, a Left bastion. Most IT firms in Technopark and Infopark reported very thin attendance. Work at the Cochin Port was affected.

The shutdown evoked mixed response in Karnataka. Buses and autos didn’t ply while factories, banks and shops were closed. Thousands of commuters were stranded in cities and towns across the state.

The strike hit transport and banking services in both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh too.

Buses of state-owned road transport corporations in both states went off the roads as did auto-rickshaws in Hyderabad and other towns. Truck owners and drivers also joined the strike in some places. Petrol bunks were shut in a few places.

In Bhopal, all state-run public buses remained off the roads. Shops and banks too were shut. The strike was particularly effective in major cities like Indore, Jabalpur and Ujjain.

Normal life was hit in Bihar as thousands of workers in the government and private sector joined the strike. In some places, strike supporters blocked roads and halted train services.

The strike was total in Left-ruled Tripura. All offices, shops, markets, banks and educational institutions were shut while vehicular traffic went off the roads.

In Kolkata, while educational institutions and commercial establishments were largely closed, buses and the metro operated normally. But there were fewer commuters.

Train services on the Eastern Railway and South Eastern Railway were hit as strike supporters blocked the tracks in several areas.

The strike had the least effect in Tamil Nadu although life was hit in industrial areas besides banks and insurance companies.

The impact of the shutdown in Himachal Pradesh was seen in Shimla, Rampur, Theog, Solan, Mandi, Nahan, Una, Bilaspur, Hamirpur, Dharamsala, Palampur, Kangra, Kullu and Manali towns as bus operators joined the protest.

In Goa, markets and public transport were hit hard, union leaders said. Police arrested about 200 workers who had blocked National Highway 17 near the Verna Industrial estate, 25 km from Panaji.

(With inputs from IANS)

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Diesel Exhaust Converted Into Ink by Indian Innovators To Battle Air Pollution

Supervised by young engineers, workers at the start-up company Chakr Innovation in New Delhi cut and weld sheets of metal to make devices that will capture black plumes of smoke from diesel generators and convert it into ink.

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representational image. VOA

Supervised by young engineers, workers at the start-up company Chakr Innovation in New Delhi cut and weld sheets of metal to make devices that will capture black plumes of smoke from diesel generators and convert it into ink.

In a cabin, young engineers pore over drawings and hunch over computers as they explore more applications of the technology that they hope will aid progress in cleaning up the Indian capital’s toxic air – among the world’s dirtiest.

While the millions of cars that ply Delhi’s streets are usually blamed for the city’s deadly air pollution, another big culprit is the massive diesel generators used by industries and buildings to light up homes and offices during outages when power from the grid switches off – a frequent occurrence in summer. Installed in backyards and basements, they stay away from the public eye.

“Although vehicular emissions are the show stoppers, they are the ones which get the media attention, the silent polluters are the diesel generators,” says Arpit Dhupar, one of the three engineers who co-founded the start up.

The idea that this polluting smoke needs attention struck Dhupar three years ago as he sipped a glass of sugarcane juice at a roadside vendor and saw a wall blackened with the fumes of a diesel generator he was using.

It jolted him into joining with two others who co-founded the start-up to find a solution. Dhupar had experienced first hand the deadly impact of this pollution as he developed respiratory problems growing up in Delhi.

An Indian girls holds a banner during a protest against air pollution in New Delhi, India, Nov. 6, 2016.
An Indian girls holds a banner during a protest against air pollution in New Delhi, India, Nov. 6, 2016.

A new business

As the city’s dirty air becomes a serious health hazard for many citizens, it has turned into both a calling and a business opportunity for entrepreneurs looking at ways to improve air quality.

According to estimates, vehicles contribute 22 percent of the deadly PM 2.5 emissions in Delhi, while the share of diesel generators is about 15 percent. These emissions settle deep into the lungs, causing a host of respiratory problems.

After over two years of research and development, Chakr has begun selling devices to tap the diesel exhaust. They have been installed in 50 places, include public sector and private companies.

The technology involves cooling the exhaust in a “heat exchanger” where the tiny soot particles come together. These are then funneled into another chamber that captures 70 to 90 percent of the particulate matter. The carbon is isolated and converted into ink.

Among their first clients was one of the city’s top law firms, Jyoti Sagar Associates, which is housed in a building in Delhi’s business hub Gurgaon.

Making a contribution to minimizing the carbon footprint is a subject that is close to Sagar’s heart – his 32-year-old daughter has long suffered from the harmful effects of Delhi’s toxic air.

Motorists drive surrounded by smog, in New Delhi, India, Nov. 8, 2017.
Motorists drive surrounded by smog, in New Delhi, India, Nov. 8, 2017.

“This appealed to us straightaway, the technology is very impactful but is beautifully simple,” says Sagar. Since it could be retrofitted, it did not disrupt the day-to-day activities at the buzzing office. “Let’s be responsible. Let’s at least not leave behind a larger footprint of carbon. And if we can afford to control it, why not, it’s good for all,” he says.

At Chakr Innovation, cups, diaries and paper bags printed with the ink made from the exhaust serve as constant reminders of the amount of carbon emissions that would have escaped into the atmosphere.

There has been a lot of focus on improving Delhi’s air by reducing vehicular pollution and making more stringent norms for manufacturers, but the same has not happened for diesel generators. Although there are efforts to penalize businesses that dirty the atmosphere, this often prompts them to find ways to get around the norms.

Also Read: Exposure to Traffic-Related Pollution Poses Threat of Asthma in Kids

Tushar Mathur who joined the start up after working for ten years in the corporate sector feels converting smoke into ink is a viable solution. “Here is a technology which is completely sustainable, a win-win between businesses and environment,” says Mathur. (VOA)