Kerala bandh: Schools, colleges and businesses shut; bus services hit

Kerala bandh: Schools, colleges and businesses shut; bus services hit
The dawn-to-dusk 'hartal' called by the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) on Monday was marked by minor incidents of violence in the initial hours.

The hartal was called in protest against the central and state government over several issues, including the rise in fuel prices, faulty implementation of Goods and Services Tax, political killings in the state and law and order concerns.

Services of the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) have remained largely unaffected, except in Kasargod. While educational institutions are closed and universities have postponed examinations, attendance at government offices and institutions is marginally low. Most of the shops and business establishments are closed.

Buses attacked

Several KSRTC buses were attacked on the outskirts of Thiruvananthapuram, Pathanamthitta and Palakkad, while protesters threw stones at a bus in Kochi. Some buses were stopped in Kozhikode and Malappuram.

In Kollam, Alappuzha, Thrissur and Kozhikode, protesters stopped several private vehicles. On Sunday, during a march ahead of the hartal, protesters stopped a vehicle ferrying a pregnant woman to a hospital in Kollam.

The CPM-led state government has announced strict action against those violating law and order during the hartal and assured security for private vehicles. “Strict action will be taken against those who engage in acts of violence, obstruct traffic, forcefully shut down shops and prevent people from joining work,” Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had said.

Rhetoric and reversal

The hartal has invited criticism with many pointing out that Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala, during his stint as home minister in the previous Congress-led government, initiated a bill to regulate it.

Chennithala clarified that the Opposition was organising a “peaceful” hartal. The Kerala High Court, while considering a petition against the hartal, had issued a notice to Chennithala and directed the state government to ensure security for the public and dispel “fears” about the protest.

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