The dawn-to-dusk hartal in Kerala called by the ruling Left Front and Congress-led Opposition against rising fuel prices hit normal life on Monday.
Public transport was hit, with the state-run and private buses, taxis and auto-rickshaws staying off the roads across the state. Attendance in government offices was low and most of the educational institutions remained closed.
Shops and commercial establishments downed shutters but Kochi Metro operated services. In Thiruvananthapuram, the scenes were familiar at the central train station where special buses were arranged for passengers arriving at the station to reach their destinations in the city.
Private vehicles were stopped by protesters in some parts of the state. Kerala Women’s Commission member Shahida Kamal was allegedly assaulted by protesting Congress workers near Pathanapuram, in Kollam district. Shahida said her official car was intercepted by the protesters who damaged the car and tried to drag her out of the vehicle. Shahida joined the CPM from the Congress in 2016.
Protesters had announced that relief and rehabilitation work at flood-affected areas would not be affected. Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee vice-president V D Satheesan and Indian Union Muslim League leader M K Muneer voiced dissent against the hartal, which was called at a time when the state is still recovering from the massive damage caused by floods and landslides.
In Thiruvananthapuram, the ruling CPM-led Left Democratic Front staged a protest led by convenor A Vijayaraghavan. Veteran Congress leader and former chief minister Oommen Chandy said various parties coming together for the shutdown signalled concerted Opposition against economic policies of the BJP-led government at the Centre.
Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala, who led a protest rally in a bullock-cart in Kochi, called for bringing petrol and diesel under the ambit of the GST.
After the protest, the veteran Congress leader rode pillion with a party worker on his scooter to reach a hotel in the city, the venue for his son Rohit’s engagement ceremony. Chennithala told television channels that the date was finalised two months ago and he was not in a position to postpone the ceremony.