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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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India Continues Engaging With USA Over H-1B Passport Issue

India is closely engaged with the US administration as well as the US Congress on this matter.

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As Trump proposes changes in H1-B visa, India continues to engage with US

India is continuing to engage with the US over the H-1B visa, largely availed of by Indian IT companies, after the Trump administration proposed changes to the programme, a senior official said on Thursday.

“It is a very important topic for us and that is the reason why we have time and again at various levels, we have taken up this matter with the US side,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said in response to queries by journalists here.

Kumar said that most recently, the issue was raised during the first ever India-US 2+2 Ministerial Meeting held here last month that was attended by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary Jim Mattis.

On Wednesday, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said that the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) plans to come out with its new proposal by January 2019.

India n Passport
It will also “revise the definition” of employment and employer-employee relationship to “better protect” US workers and wages Flickr

The DHS said it was also proposing to remove from its regulations certain H-4 spouses of H-1B non-immigrants as a class of aliens eligible for employment authorisation.

The move to end the rule could have an impact on more than 70,000 H-4 visa holders, who have work permits.

The H-4 visas are issued by the USCIS to immediate family members (spouse and children under 21 years of age) of the holders of H-1B visa.

The DHS said it will propose to revise the definition of speciality occupation to increase focus on obtaining the best and the brightest foreign nationals via the H-1B programme.

It will also “revise the definition” of employment and employer-employee relationship to “better protect” US workers and wages, the DHS said.

Donald Trump, India
President Donald Trump speaks about immigration alongside family members affected by crimes committed by undocumented immigrants, at the South Court Auditorium on the White House complex, June 22, 2018, in Washington, VOA

In his remarks on Thursday, Kumar said that India is closely engaged with the US administration as well as the US Congress on this matter.

Stating that there are certain bills which have been introduced, he, however, said that “it is important to note that none of these bills have been passed so far”.

“When we have engaged with the US, we have emphasised that our partnership which we have in the digital sphere have been mutually beneficial,” the spokesperson said.

Also Read: USA And Other Countries Pledge To Eradicate Illegal Wildlife Trade

“We have highlighted the role which has been played by the highly skilled Indian professionals who have actually contributed to the growth and development of the US economy,” he stated.

“And also they have helped the US to maintain a competitive edge in the world towards innovation and science and technology.” (IANS)