Left political parties in Tamilnadu, along with DMK and INC had given a call for a day of strike on 25th April. This was in solidarity with the peasant farmers and agricultural labourers of Tamilnadu, who are facing acute distress due to severe drought, raising indebtedness and unemployment. The ruling AIADMK, BJP and few other parties did not participate in the protests.
Central Trade Unions and some regional trade unions had extended their support to this agitation. Raising the demands of the distressed farmers, they organized protest demonstrations in many parts of the state. Their demands were for the Central Government to immediately allocate the drought relief package of about Rs 40000 crore to Tamilnadu government, take measures to waive the farmers loans held by nationalized banks, constitute the Cauvery River Management Board to protect the rights of Tamilnadu farmers to cauvery water and take measures to ameliorate the recurring distress in agriculture. They had earlier protested on April 13th extending their support to the farmers and had called for solidarity between workers and farmers.
In Chennai, most shops remained closed through the day. Transportation was affected with unionized taxi and auto drivers off roads, but travel aggregators plying para transit facilities. Public transport was partially down with transport corporation marshalling contract workers to keep the fleet running. The strike was not enforced at other establishments including IT companies, banks and factories. The Hindu has reported that many government staff struck work, significantly hampering daily work and over 1000 workers were detained for protests in more than 60 places in Chennai.
Road Block on Anna Salai
Many hundreds of workers, led by A.Soundarajan, President of CITU Tamil Nadu State Committee, blocked the critical junction at the north end of Anna Salai, bringing traffic to a standstill for about half an hour. Workers were affiliated to LPF, CITU, HMS and other trade unions. Within minutes, the police were in full force and detained most of the workers. MTC busses were chartered by the police to move the detainees to a nearby marriage hall.
Com. A Soundarajan said that the protests were organized as an attempt to draw the attention of the central government to the plight of the farmers and agricultural workers in Tamilnadu. “what is the government for. If it is the fate of the farmer to live or die on his own accord, we don’t need a government anymore. It makes no sense to call a state drought affected and then do nothing to mitigate the distress. Mere proclaiming would not help without financial and institutional support” he said. He also said that the protests were a consequence of Central Government’s actions to impose Hindi, push GST that is causing significant loss to TN exchequer, and the imposition of entrance examinations (NEET), that would adversely affect rural students in college admissions.
Protests in Kanchipuram
Protests were held in various parts of the districts including Chenglepet, Kanchipuram, Madhuranthagam, Nandambakkam (near Sriperumbudur), Thiruporur and Kalpakkam. Workers from LPF, CITU and VCK participated in the protests. They were arrested and detained for a day. Workers of AICCTU held a protest at Sriperumbudur in support of farmers at 5PM.
Bank, Insurance and BSNL Employees Protest
More than a hundred employees of various public sector organisations including bank, postal services, BSNL Chennai circle and insurance sector held a demonstration outside the LIC office in Parrys corner in support of the bandh call. Leaders of the Bank Employees Federation of India, and unions in each of these sectors came down heavily on the BJP government at the Centre for ignoring the plight of the state’s farmers who are facing a severe crisis. Calling the suicide of more than a 100 farmers in the delta region, a national shame, and blasting the Modi government for not willing to meet with the farmers, slogans were raised calling for unity of farmers and workers. With the government willing to forgo loans worth thousands of crores for corporations, the refusal to waiver loan of the distressed farmers is unforgivable. They also demanded the immediate action to constitute the Cauvery River Management Board. Com. Janakiraman, Com. Thomas Franco, Com.Kariappan, Com. Kanniah , Com. Tamilarasu and Com.Manoharan addressed the meeting. Speaking to Thozhilalar Koodam, Com. Thomas Franco (AIBOC) said that the All India Bank Officers Association planned to hold nationwide demonstrations every month on several demands, one of which is regarding relief for farmers.
Factory Workers lend solidarity through gate meetings
On 21st April, workers in many factories in and around Chennai had a series of factory gate demonstrations in solidarity with Tamilnadu farmers. These gate meetings were organized by WPTUC (Working People Trade Union Congress)