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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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World’s Anti-Corruption Day

The U.S. Statement Department said in its Friday statement that it pledges "to continue working with our partners to prevent and combat corruption worldwide."

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Anti-Corruption
Bulgarian anti-corruption protesters march during a demonstration in downtown Sofia, VOA

Corruption costs the world economy $2.6 trillion each year, according to the United Nations, which is marking International Anti-Corruption Day on Sunday.

“Corruption is a serious crime that can undermine social and economic development in all societies. No country, region or community is immune,” the United Nations said.

The cost of $2.6 trillion represents more than 5 percent of global GDP.

The world body said that $1 trillion of the money stolen annually through corruption is in the form of bribes.

Patricia Moreira, the managing director of Transparency International, told VOA that about a quarter of the world’s population has paid a bribe when trying to access a public service over the past year, according to data from the Global Corruption Barometer.

Moreira said it is important to have such a day as International Anti-Corruption Day because it provides “a really tremendous opportunity to focus attention precisely on the challenge that is posed by corruption around the world.”

Journalist, Anti-Corruption
An activist places candles and flowers on the Great Siege monument, after rebuilding a makeshift memorial to assassinated anti-corruption journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, in Valletta, Malta. VOA

Anti-corruption commitments

To mark the day, the United States called on all countries to implement their international anti-corruption commitments including through the U.N. Convention against Corruption.

In a statement Friday, the U.S. State Department said that corruption facilitates crime and terrorism, as well as undermines economic growth, the rule of law and democracy.

“Ultimately, it endangers our national security. That is why, as we look ahead to International Anticorruption Day on Dec. 9, we pledge to continue working with our partners to prevent and combat corruption worldwide,” the statement said.

Moreira said that data about worldwide corruption can make the phenomena understandable but still not necessarily “close to our lives.” For that, we need to hear everyday stories about people impacted by corruption and understand that it “is about our daily lives,” she added.

She said those most impacted by corruption are “the most vulnerable people — so it’s usually women, it’s usually poor people, the most marginalized people in the world.”

Anti-Corruption
Anna Hazare raised his voice against corruption and went ahead with his hunger strike at the Jantar Mantar in New Delhi. Wikimedia Commons

The United Nations Development Program notes that in developing countries, funds lost to corruption are estimated at 10 times the amount of official development assistance.

What can be done to fight corruption?

The United Nations designated Dec. 9 as International Anti-Corruption Day in 2003, coinciding with the adoption of the United Nations Convention against Corruption by the U.N. General Assembly.

The purpose of the day is to raise awareness about corruption and put pressure on governments to take action against it.

Tackling the issue

Moreira said to fight corruption effectively it must be tackled from different angles. For example, she said that while it is important to have the right legislation in place to curb corruption, governments must also have mechanisms to enforce that legislation. She said those who engage in corruption must be held accountable.

“Fighting corruption is about providing people with a more sustainable world, with a world where social justice is something more of our reality than what it has been until today,” she said.

Anti-Corruption
It is important to have the right legislation in place to curb corruption

Moreira said change must come from a joint effort from governments, public institutions, the private sector and civil society.

The U.S. Statement Department said in its Friday statement that it pledges “to continue working with our partners to prevent and combat corruption worldwide.”

It noted that the United States, through the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development, helps partner nations “build transparent, accountable institutions and strengthen criminal justice systems that hold the corrupt accountable.”

Also Read: British Parliament Access Internal Facebook Data Scandal Papers: Report

Moreira said that it is important for the world to see that there are results to the fight against corruption.

“Then we are showing the world with specific examples that we can fight against corruption, [that] yes there are results. And if we work together, then it is something not just that we would wish for, but actually something that can be translated into specific results and changes to the world,” she said. (VOA)