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Mixed response to nationwide strike in Mumbai

Mumbai, Feb 20 (IANS) The nationwide shutdown call by trade unions evoked a mixed response in Maharashtra, crippling the financial sector and most industrial units. However, private establishments and other services remained unaffected.

In Mumbai, barring stray incidents of stone-pelting and attempts to stop buses and trains, the impact of nationwide shutdown Wednesday on Mumbai and its suburbs was restricted to the financial sector.

Bank ATMs ran out of cash within four to five hours of the strike.

"In Mumbai city alone, clearing of cheques worth Rs.10,000 crores could not take place. The government also could not carry out transactions since banks taking care of treasury operations did not function," said Vishwas Utagi, vice president of All India Bank Employees Association.

"In Maharashtra, around 150,000 employees were on strike that held demonstrations, gate meetings and participated in agitations organised by Joint Action Committees of Trade Unions at cities like Pune, Nasik, Kolhapur, Aurangabad, Sholapur, Ratnagiri, Thane and Nagpur," Utagi added.

In Pune, banks and most industrial units downed shutters. Schools declared a holiday to avoid risking students' safety. However, over 70 percent of business and personal establishments in the city and district continued their services through the day.

In Nashik too, most industrial units, banks and financial institutions remained shut. The city and the district observed almost 80 percent shutdown.

Experts in Aurangabad predicted a loss of over Rs.1,500 crore as banking and industrial sectors observed a near complete shutdown.

In Nagpur, while industrial units observe a weekly off Wednesday, the shutdown is likely to hit the city hard Thursday as most units and establishments have declared a total shutdown.

However, at most places throughout the state, all other establishments including transport facilities were working as usual.

Almost no incidents of violence were recorded in the state through the day. While most parts remained peaceful, minor incidents of stone pelting were recorded in Bhandup and Kalwa in Mumbai.

However, the situation was brought under control immediately, police said.

According to traffic police and railway officials, attempts were made to halt buses in Mumbai and trains in the western suburbs, but most of these efforts were unsuccessful due to police presence.

Other services and establishments functioned normally in the city. Suburban trains, buses, taxis and private vehicles were seen plying in Mumbai as usual.

"There has been no effect of the nationwide shutdown on the Western Railway suburban services. All services are running normally. We do not expect any issues," a Western Railway official said here.

The all-India shutdown call is in support of various demands by trade unions, including concrete measures to counter inflation, steps for employment generation, job security, universal social security, and hiking the minimum wage to Rs.10,000 per month along with daily allowance.

The Shiv Sena and its affiliated organisations are supporting the strike.

However, Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray assured people that the shutdown would not affect students appearing for higher secondary school certificate examinations from Thursday.

All civic emergency and essential services remained on alert to combat any situation.

Indo Asian News Service

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