Nation shuts down for a day

Strike called by Oppn against FDI, diesel price hike near total across country

Nation shuts down for a day

The Bharat Bandh called by opposition parties on Thursday to protest against the government’s decision to bring in FDI in multi-brand retail and diesel price hike paralysed life across the country, with industrial establishments remaining closed and public transport off the roads.

In Mumbai, small merchants, wholesalers and retailers downed their shutters, while small shops in residential colonies remained open. However, the shop keepers claimed that their “sympathies are with the protestors.”

 Till late noon, the city roads bore a forlorn look. However, the city’s landscape started reverberating with crackers and music as small cars, trucks and lorries started plying, taking the Ganesha idols for immersion to the water bodies dotting the city’s fringes.

 Essential services were not affected and local trains ran on schedule. However, the number of BEST buses on the roads were less compared to normal working days.

In Andhra Pradesh, the bandh evoked mixed response. With opposition party members staging blockades in front of bus depots right from dawn, buses of the Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation (APSRTC) went off the roads in most parts of the state. Goods transportation was hit badly with more than four lakh trucks joining the strike since midnight. A section of auto drivers affiliated to TRS also joined the strike. However, local trains plied.

While the bandh had partial impact in the twin cities, it was near total in other parts of the state. The APSRTC buses in the state capital plied as usual. While shops and petrol bunks remained open, almost all schools and colleges were closed. Shops, business and educational institutions were closed in Warangal, Visakhapatnam, Vijayawada, Guntur, Nellore, Tirupati, Kurnool and Karimnagar.

Police arrested scores of opposition workers and leaders for trying to prevent buses from plying and forcing shops to down shutters. Police also took into custody TDP and Left legislators for demonstrating in front of the Assembly building. The YSRC legislators also staged a separate protest and were arrested. While, opposition parties stalled proceedings at the State Assembly and the legislative council, TDP legislators cooked food at the Gun Park in front of the Assembly.

In West Bengal, life was paralysed, even as Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee congratulated all those who reported to work. With 89 per cent of the government employees reporting for work, Banerjee said: “It’s a record attendance that shows our work culture and the respect we have for businesses and the economy.”

However, rail and road communication were disrupted, business establishments mostly closed, while private offices recorded thin attendance. Long distance trains ran behind schedule and suburban train services were badly hit, as opposition activists squatted on railway tracks at various stations under the Eastern and South Eastern Railways. Even private buses and taxis kept off the roads.

In Tamil Nadu, the bandh evoked partial response. The AIADMK government had ensured adequate police security to ensure that normal life was not affected. Jayalalitha stayed away from the strike to keep the DMK, led by Karunanidhi, at bay, sources said.

Most of the state transport buses plied and most schools and colleges across the state functioned as usual. However, most of the shops and hotels in Chennai and elsewhere remained closed. Hundreds of textile units in Tiruppur and Karur, where DMK and Left trade unions have a good presence, were shut. About 5.5 lakh trucks in the Namakkal belt were off the roads.

In Chennai, BJP leader Ela Ganesan and scores of party members courted arrest. Besides, hundreds of CPM and CPI cadres were also arrested.

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