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Trade union strike: Train services hit, public transport off roads, SBI branch attacked in Kerala

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(Eds: Updating with more details) Thiruvananthapuram, Jan 9 (PTI) Train services were disrupted, public transport remaind off roads and an SBI treasury branch attacked on the second day of the nation-wide trade union strike, even as shops in suburbs of major towns in Kerala were open on Wednesday. The call for a two-day Bharat Bandh was given by 10 central trade unions (CTUs) that are protesting the government's snub of their 12-point charter of demands seeking minimum wage of Rs 18,000, social security for all workers and issue related to price rise. The strike also affected the movement of pilgrims to the Sabarimala hill temple, resulting in a fall in the arrival of devotees, even though the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) had arranged bus services from various destinations to Pamba. Though the organisers of the bandh claimed that the tourism sector would be spared from the strike, tourists were affected at some places. In Thiruvananthapuram, an official of the SBI's treasury branch said a group of people came to the manager's cabin around 10 an and threatened him and his staff, damaged a glass-top table and a computer monitor. Police said the perpetrators are yet to be nabbed. "We are yet to closely examine the CCTV footage from the bank. We have registered a case against 15 people," a police official told PTI. CPI(M) state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan slammed the incidents of violence during the two-day strike and said that it was unfortunate. Shops were open in the suburbs of all major towns and along the highways, but the roads remained traffic-free at most places as public transport, especially KSRTC, did not ply services, except to Pamba. Port trust authorities in Kochi, however, arranged vehicles and other facilities for tourists who arrived at the city on a cruise liner. "Most of the tourist attractions like the zoo, museums and other places under the Archeological Survey of India remained closed. Most tourists who reached these destinations felt cheated and tour operators who brought them are going to face the burnt," a tour operator told PTI on the condition of anonymity. At the railway station here, the Thiruvananthapuram-Hyderabad Sabari Express and Venad Express were blocked, while the Kottayam-Nilambur passenger train in Kalamassery was held up for a while. A Centre of Indian Trade Union (CITU) worker, who allegedly hurled stones at the BJP protest pandal here on Tuesday, was also arrested. All trade unions, except the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, have extended support to the strike called by 10 central trade union against the "anti-labour" policies of the Centre. Auto-rickshaws were also off the roads. Many shopkeepers alleged that they were asked to down their shutters. Most textile and spices shops in the Broadway Market in Kochi and Mittayi Theruvu (sweet street) in Kozhikode were, however, open. Sabarimala pilgrims, tourists, social and religious functions have been exempted from the strike. PTI RRT UD APR ANB ANB

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