Bharat gives mixed response to bandh
The opposition parties held a nationwide strike today, vowing to shutdown the country in protest against steep petrol price rises announced last week and planned anti-govt marches, roadblocks, protests across the country. Uttar Pradesh | Bihar | Himachal Pradesh| Karnataka | Odisha | West Bengal | Maharashtra | Rajasthan | Punjab | Andhra | Tamil Nadu | Goadelhi Updated: Jun 01, 2012 01:08 IST
The nationwide bandh called by the NDA and Left parties to protest the petrol price hike on Thursday evoked a mixed response amid incidents of stone pelting, arson and road blockades in Karnataka, Maharashtra and West Bengal.
In the national capital, the bandh did not evoke much response though party supporters blocked traffic in some places.
Small shops were seen open in many areas in the morning while commuters complained that there were less autos on roads as a number of auto and taxi unions have joined the protest.
In the financial capital, Mumbai, bandh supporters pelted stones at buses in two suburban areas of the city. Elsewhere in Maharashtra, activists pelted stones at 13 buses in Pune, 10 in Nagpur and Thane districts and stopped some buses by blocking roads in Satara district
Local trains and buses were plying as usual in most parts of Mumbai.
The bandh disrupted normal life in parts of BJP-ruled Karnataka where bandh supporters set on fire three buses and stoned about a dozen others forcing authorities to withdraw bus services in the city. Public transport was hit and shops and business establishments remained shut in several parts of Karnataka.
There was no impact of the bandh in Kerala and a lukewarm response to the stir in Tamil Nadu.
In Bihar, NDA Convener and JD-U national president Sharad Yadav and BJP leader Shahnawaz Hussain were among 800 activists taken into custody while enforcing the bandh.
Yadav, who along with 700 odd supporters took out processions in Saharsa town to enforce the call, was taken into custody.
Hussain, the BJP National Spokesman, and others were detained in Bhagalpur town while trying to enforce the bandh.
Yadav demanded that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh resign immediately for the "failure" of his government to control the spiralling prices of petroleum products and essential commodities.
In West Bengal, bandh supporters blocked some roads in some areas and squatted on railway tracks.
Bandh supporters blocked the Howrah Bridge, which connects the metropolis to the Howrah district. They also blocked roads at Chapadali more in Barasat, in Bankura district, Budge Budge and some other places, police said.
However, buses, cars, taxis, trams were running in the metropolis though in less number.
Normal life was affected in Punjab due to the strike. Commercial establishments in Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Batala, Kapurthala, Pathankot and Amritsar remained closed, though factories and other industrial units were operational.
The impact of bandh was also visible on the transport network with buses including private ones remaining off the road, causing inconvenience to people, as per reports pouring in from various districts including Patiala, Gurdaspur, Pathankot and Kapurthala.
However, in Chandigarh, shops and commercial establishments remained open and buses were plying as usual.
In Congress-led Haryana, the bandh call did not evoke much response with shops and commercial establishments remaining open at most of the places in the state.
Markets were closed in major cities of Rajasthan and private buses off the road due to the bandh.
The unprecedented hike in petrol prices has helped the Left and the Right to make common cause for the nationwide protest, described by BJP and its allies as Bharat Bandh and by Left as All India Protest Day.
Last week, State-run oil firms announced the sharpest jump in petrol prices in nearly a decade to offset growing losses caused by subsidised rates, rises in the international oil price and a plunging rupee.
Once taxes are included, the price increase of Rs. 6.28 per litre will result in a Rs-7.5 hike for consumers in cities such as Delhi.
"It is unjustified and the government only has itself to blame for the present crisis," said D Raja, national secretary of the Communist Party of India.
"Our demand is the oil companies must roll back the hike," Raja said.
In 2010 the government deregulated petrol prices in a reform aimed at reducing the massive subsidies it pays to state-run fuel refiners which rely on imported energy.
A series of smaller petrol price increases last year caused a major headache for the government with the second-largest party in the ruling coalition threatening to pull out.
This is the second time that the BJP, Left and other non-Congress parties will be coordinating their agitations since the last Lok Sabha elections to give the impression of a wider Opposition unity on issues concerning people.
A similar agitation against petrol price hike had happened on July 5, 2010.
"The UPA government has increased petrol prices on 18 to 19 occasions. Now even the Rupee has fallen further. The situation is deteriorating in such a manner that we have reached the stage where we may have to pledge our gold again. We would like all parties, opposed to the petrol hike, to join our protest," Gadkari told reporters on Wednesday.