(Photo by SANJAY KANOJIA/AFP via Getty Images)

Central trade unions began a nationwide strike on Thursday, protesting against the new farm and labour laws, among other workers-related issues.

The day-long strike has been called for by a joint platform of 10 central trade unions.

“The strike has begun. Kerala and Tamil Nadu are completely shut down. Similar situation is also developing in Odisha, Punjab, Haryana, Telangana and Goa. There is also a good response to the strike in Maharashtra,” AITUC General Secretary Amarjeet Kaur told PTI.

BJP-aligned Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) is not participating in the strike.

AIKSCC, a coalition of farmer organizations, has also extended its support to the general strike and are mobilising their members to express solidarity with the striking workers.

In many states, workers in transportation sector have decided to keep off the roads. The federations of railway and defence employees are set for large solidarity marches on Thursday.

Banking operations in public sector banks across the country were partially affected as some bank unions joined strike.

The demands of the joint platform include cash transfer of Rs 7,500 per month ($101) tor all non-income tax paying families and 10 kilograms of free ration to every needy person per month.

The unions have also demanded expansion of MGNREGA, the rural employment guarantee scheme, to provide 200 days’ work in a year in rural areas at enhanced wages and also extension of the employment guarantee to urban areas.

They have also asked the government to withdraw all “anti-farmer laws and anti-worker labour codes and stop privatisation of public sector, including the financial sector and stop corporatisation of government-run manufacturing and service entities like railways, ordinance factories, ports etc”.

Among other demands, the unions have sought withdrawal of the “draconian circular on forced premature retirement of government and PSU (public sector undertakings) employees”.

Other demands of the unions include ‘pension to all’, scrapping NPS (National Pension System) and restoration of earlier pension with improvement in EPS-95 (Employees’ Pension Scheme-1995) run by retirement fund body EPFO.