Some of the essential services related to banking, transportation, railways and electricity are likely to be impacted during the two-day nationwide strike that started Sunday midnight.
All Indian Trade Union Congress General Secretary Amarjeet Kaur said, "We are expecting participation of over 20 crore formal and informal workers with mass mobilisation of workers across the country during the strike on March 28 and 29 to protest against government policies."
She said that the strike is expected to hit the rural parts also, where informal workers of farming and other sectors will join the protest.
The strike notices were given by workers' unions of various sectors such as coal, steel, oil, telecom, postal, income tax, copper, banks and insurance.
Unions in railways and defence sector will carry out mass mobilization in support of the strike at several places, the joint forum said.
The unions' demands include scrapping of the proposed changes in labour laws, privatisation of any form and the national monetisation pipeline. Increased allocation of wages under MNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Act) and regularisation of contract workers are also part of their demands.
Workers of roadways, transport and electricity departments have also decided to join the strike in spite of the impending threat of ESMA (Essential Services Maintenance Act) which is likely to be imposed in Haryana and Chandigarh, the joint forum said in a statement.
Trade unions, including INTUC, AITUC, HMS, CITU, AIUTUC, TUCC, SEWA, AICCTU, LPF and UTUC are part of the joint forum.
Meanwhile, the power ministry on Sunday advised all the state-run utilities and other agencies to be on high alert and ensure round-the-clock electricity supply and stability of the national grid.
The advisory has been issued to all states, central public sector undertakings, central electricity authority, national load dispatch centre and regional load dispatch centres.
In the interest of the consumers of electricity, it is advised that all the power utilities shall take necessary measures to ensure round-the-clock functioning of the electricity grid and availability of all plants, transmission lines and substations, the ministry said, adding that all regional/state control room executives should be vigilant and on high alert.
The ministry also suggested measures to be taken to ensure secure and reliable grid operations.
Shutdown activities planned during March 28-29 may be rescheduled to suitable future dates to the extent possible, it said and asked all concerned officials to ensure close supervision of their regional network/control area.
Also, manpower may be deployed at all critical sub-stations/power station 24X7 to handle any emergency situation, it said.
Power supply to those engaged in essential services such as hospitals, defence, and railways must be ensured, it added and suggested setting up of a 24x7 control room for information dissemination and handling any kind of contingency.
Bank employees' unions said they will support the strike.
All India Bank Employees' Association (AIBEA) General Secretary C H Venkatachalam said the union demands the government to stop privatisation of public sector banks and strengthen them. Bank employees also demand speedy recovey of bad loans, higher deposit rates by banks, lower service charges on customers as well as restoration of old pension scheme for staff.
A number of public sector banks, including country's largest lender SBI, have said that their services may get impacted to a limited extent due to the strike.
SBI said it has made necessary arrangements to ensure normal functioning in its branches and offices during the strike.
"It is likely that work at our bank may be impacted, to a limited extent, by the strike," SBI said.
New Delhi-headquartered Punjab National Bank (PNB) said, AIBEA, Bank Employees Federation of India (BEFI) and All India Bank Officers' Association (AIBOA) have served notices to go on strike on March 28-29.
"While bank has made all arrangements to ensure normal functioning in its branches and offices, it is likely that work in our bank may be impacted to a limited extent by the strike," PNB said.
Bengaluru-based Canara Bank said it is taking all necessary steps to ensure smooth functioning of bank branches and offices. However, the functioning of the bank may be impacted, Canara Bank added.
Private lender RBL Bank said its bank unions are affiliated to AIBOA and AIBEA, and the employees associated with these unions may participate in the strike.
"The bank will take all necessary steps for smooth functioning of the bank's branches/offices on the days of strike. However, it is likely that some of our branches would also be impacted by the strike," RBL said.