Maharashtra bandh: Shops stay shut, transport hit, office-goers impacted in Mumbai
In wake of the state-wide bandh called by the ruling coalition of Shiv Sena, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Congress, the road transport services were largely suspended, affecting Mumbaiites on Monday. Largely shops, restaurants, and establishments stayed shut in the Maximum City through the day, with workers of the ruling coalition enforcing the bandh in some parts.
In Mumbai, the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) Undertaking’s buses stayed off the roads after isolated incidents of stone-pelting in some areas, affecting office-goers in the morning. The black-and-yellow taxis and autorickshaws continued to ply, but at some locations, the drivers reportedly charged almost double the fare to ferry passengers. Mumbai suburban local trains and the Metro line were operational and remained unaffected.
As Mumbaiites were unaware that BEST buses were not plying, initially there was crowding at bus stops. Bus services were majorly affected as BEST employees’ union had supported the bandh. After 11 am, bus stops wore a deserted look as the services stopped after buses were vandalised in the morning.
A total of 11 buses were vandalised on Monday, according to a BEST spokesperson. BEST administration had sought for police protection around 9am in order to operate the services. BEST operated 1,833 buses till 6.45pm on Monday evening, a BEST spokesperson added. It operates above 3,000-3,300 buses everyday and has a daily ridership of around 2.5 million passengers.
The ruling coalition has claimed that the call for the shutdown had received an “overwhelming” response. Party workers of the coalition carried out protests and an enforced bandh by asking shop keepers to down their shutters. The impact of the bandh would have been greater on people in the city had the work-from-home not been underway at most corporate offices and had the ruling coalition staged rail roko and disrupted the suburban train services.
The pulse of Mumbai’s commercial areas, Fort and Nariman Point, had less hustle-bustle during the peak office hours. Government and private offices saw less attendance that usual. Street vendors, too, in Fort were absent.
Popular markets in south Mumbai, such as Crawford Market, Colaba Causeway and Fashion Street, which buzz with street vendors and shoppers on other days, were shut.
In Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC), attendance in offices of financial and other sectors was low as staffers could not get public transport for travel. Some corporate houses hired private buses for their staff to commute. A few managements also asked their employees to work from home.
The bandh’s impact was seen in most in parts of central Mumbai, where markets of Dadar and Matunga were closed, and all shops in these areas along with Worli, Parel, Lower Parel and Mahim had downed their shutters. The main entrances of the wholesale vegetable markets of Dadar and Matunga were locked. The Hindamata cloth market in Dadar (East), which is the largest wholesale market in the city, was also closed on Monday, as shopkeepers showed solidarity with the state-wide bandh.
“Who is going to take a risk as Shiv Sena is known for violence,” said a shopkeeper.
However, local Sena leaders said they had approached various associations on Sunday asking them to shut shop on Monday.
“We requested the shopkeepers’ associations and they agreed. It was a successful bandh,” said former Sena corporator Parag Chavan.
Shivaji Park in Dadar, which is sees many sporting activities every morning, wore a deserted look on Monday, even though the gymkhana office was open.
While roads in Dadar, Worli, and Matunga appeared deserted, south Mumbai’s Marine Drive, Girgaum Chowpatty and Churchgate areas saw usual traffic. In the suburbs, tourists were spotted at Versova and Juhu beaches, but the shops around the beaches were shut.
Mumbai mayor Kishori Pednekar led the Shiv Sena protest at Worli. She, along with part workers, staged a dharna on Worli junction road to prevent vehicles from passing by.
“We are protesting against the anti-farmers’ policy and the gruesome murder [of farmers] by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP),” said Pednekar. Shiv Sainiks also staged protests in Chembur and Shivaji Park and on the Western Express Highway to prevent vehicles from plying. Several party workers of Sena, NCP and Congress were detained by the police.
The Shiv Sena was all buoyant in its stronghold of Dadar and Parel, Worli, Lalbaug and Byculla. Its workers roamed the streets, ensuring that the bandh is enforced strictly.
At Shivaji Park, former mayor Vishaka Raut led the workers from Sena Bhavan to the nearby Shiv Sena shakha. The Sena workers seemed electrified as they had enforced bandhs for years when its founder, late Bal Thackeray,reigned over the party.
In the western suburbs, shopkeepers gave a mixed response to the bandh as only a few downed their shutters. Many shops were open in Dahisar, Borivli, Kandivli, etc.
“We were asked by workers of a political party to keep our shops shut. Hence, did so and are planning to open in the evening. It is better to keep the shop shut without profits rather than bear losses, in case of vandalism,” a Kandivli shopkeeper Nayan Khatri said earlier in the day.
Natraj Market, one of the largest retail shopping centres in Malad, too remained shut. Shops at Irla Market, Bandra’s Linking and Hill Roads and Elco Market also remained closed. However, some shops were open at Pali Hill in Bandra.
Similarly, lone shops of electronics, hardware, clothing and accessories, stationaries and groceries in and around Mohammad Ali Road operated as usual. But most shops in the markets under JJ flyover in south Mumbai had downed their shutters.
Viren Shah, chief of the Federation of Retail Traders’ Welfare Association (FRTWA), said the traders had decided to keep shops closed till 4pm in support of the bandh at the “request” of Shiv Sena leaders. Earlier, FRTWA had opposed the shutdown, citing the huge losses endured by the shop owners in the past 18 months.
At Byculla’s Clair Road, which houses many children, mothers and women’s clothing stores, it was business as usual. A shopkeeper said, “We do not want our business to be affected. We do not believe that one day of protest, where we lose our income for the day completely, will make any difference. Business has been slow, but we had a few customers walking in during the day.”
Many shops in Byculla and Nagpada in south Mumbai remained open on Monday.
BJP and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) had opposed the bandh.
“People have hardly recovered from the Covid-19 lockdowns and here the Shiv Sena is forcing people to observe a bandh. If the Sena wants to show its empathy for farmers, they should donate one-day’s salary to them instead of troubling the people,” said MNS leader Ameya Khopkar.
Nariman Point and Fort, which are busy commercial areas, saw thin attendance in offices. Many office goers who take their private vehicles to work did not do so fearing violence. In addition, many offices told their employees to work from home.
“I could not risk taking my vehicle to Fort as there was a danger of it being ransacked on the way,” said Jitu Damania, who runs an export business and travels from Kandivli to Nariman Point daily. Similarly Kaveri Sharma, who works in a private office, said she was told to work from home. “My office staff was told not to take the risk of coming to office,” said Sharma.
Meanwhile, first information reports (FIR) have been registered in other parts of the state in connection with the incidents of violence reported during the Maharashtra Bandh on Monday. These incidents were reported in Navi Mumbai, Amravati, Kolhapur, Nagpur and Mira-Bhayander regions. Police sources said there was a huge clash between members of BJP and workers of MVA allies in Jalgaon. BJP members were allegedly trying to open a few shops while MVA activists were trying to ensure that they remain shut. At few places, political party activists also tried to close the highway and burn tires. At the time of going to press, the state police headquarters was in the process of collecting information about violence reported in other districts.