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Fuel price fire: Bharat Bandh protests, train blockades disrupt normal life

State-run buses and other vehicles kept off roads and educational institutions were shut in Karnataka, Kerala, Assam and Odisha.

india Updated: Sep 10, 2018 11:41 IST
HT Correspondents
HT Correspondents
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Bharat Bandh,Bharat bandh begins,Fuel prices
A Jan Adhikar Party supporter forces a trader to shut his shop during 'Bharat Bandh' protest against fuel price hike in Patna on Monday.(PTI)

Normal life was disrupted in several parts of the country on Monday as Congress-led opposition held protest marches, forced train blockades and closure of shops as part of the Bharat Bandh against the steep rise in petrol and diesel prices.

State-run buses and other vehicles kept off roads and educational institutions were shut in Karnataka, Kerala, Assam and Odisha.

Pro-bandh activists blocked trains in Odisha’s Sambalpur and in Patna’s Rajendra Nagar Terminal railway station and vandalised vehicles in Bihar.

Delhi

The bandh had a partial effect on the national capital as offices, schools and colleges opened at regular time despite the ‘Bharat Bandh’ although traffic was affected in Daryaganj and around Ramlila Maidan, amid heavy police deployment.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi led the protests at a meeting in Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan along with NCP chief Sharad Pawar and former JD(U) chief Sharad Yadav (now leader of Loktantrik Janata Dal). UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and former prime minister Manmohan Singh joined the protest.

Singh said the Narendra Modi government had done a number of things that were not in the interest of the nation. “The time to change this government will come soon,” he said.

AAP MPs Sanjay Singh and Manoj Jha were part of the protests at Ramlila Maidan while other activists of the party held protests at Jantar Mantar.

Mumbai

Trains were halted briefly and petrol pumps were forced shut in some parts of Mumbai on Monday as public vehicles, including buses, autorickshaws and taxis, plied normally in the financial capital.

Congress leaders Ashok Chavan, Sanjay Nirupam, Manikrao Thakre and several followers were detained by police when they tried to block trains at Andheri station. Train services passing through the station were suspended briefly.

Taxi and autorickshaw drivers’ unions said their members are not participating in the Bharat Bandh and no hindrance was reported in plying the vehicles. Some commuters, however, said there were a lesser number of app-based cabs on the roads as compared to normal days.

Petrol pump operators said workers of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) and other political parties forced them to shut down briefly at Chembur, Sahar and other places in Mumbai. MNS workers forces closure of shops and establishments at Bharatmata Junction Naka in Parel.

The BJP’s temperamental alliance partner Shiv Sena spurned the Congress’ request to participate in the bandh saying it would remain neutral.

Bihar

Jan Adhikar Party workers vandalised vehicles in state capital Patna while another set of workers blocked a railway track in Patna’s Rajendra Nagar Terminal railway station.

Loktantrik Janata Dal workers carried a motorbike on their shoulders during a march to protest the fuel price hike.

The Bihar government had sounded a high alert in all districts ahead of the Bharat Bandh. Six political parties, including the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), have extended their support to bandh called by the Congress.

ADG (law & order) Alok Raj, who is also holding the charge of ADG (rail), said that action will be taken against those forcefully enforcing bandh or targeting railway and commuter services. “All the SPs have been asked to take proper precautionary measures. Adequate reinforcement has been sent to different parts of the state. Public property should not be targeted, as ultimately it affects the common people only,” he said.

Several private schools have already announced closure in view of the bandh.

Odisha

Congress workers carried out protests in Bhubaneswar as part of the bandh and blocked trains at Sambhalpur.

The East Coast Railway Zone has cancelled 12 trains including Bhubaneswar-Howrah Jan Shatabdi Express and Bhubaneswar-Visakhapatnam Inter City Express.

The BJD government had on Sunday said that all schools would remain closed although state officials would have to report for duty.

The Odisha unit of Congress exhorted all supporters and general public for support to make the bandh successful as a mark of protest against the rise in prices of petrol and diesel. PCC chief Niranjan Patnaik urged the State government to adjourn the Assembly till 3 PM tomorrow in view of the bandh.

On Friday, the BJD had launched a three-day state-wide agitation against the fuel price hike, which ended on Sunday.

Karnataka

In Karnataka, state buses stayed put at bus stations leaving travellers stranded. The government had declared a public holiday for schools, colleges and government officials.

The JD(S), which runs a coalition government with the Congress, has extended support to the bandh. A host of organisations such as Karnataka Rakshana Vedike, KSRTC, BMTC, Ola and Uber Drivers and Owners Association, Private Taxi Owners Association, Tours and Travels Taxi Association, Auto Drivers’ Association have also decided to support the bandh.

Andhra Pradesh & Telangana

Workers of the pro-bandh parties held marches, staged sit-ins and forced closure of shops in Andhra Pradesh’s Vijayawada and Visakhapatnam and in Telangana’s Bhongir in Yadadri Bhuvanagiri district and Musheerabad bus depot in Hyderabad.

Kerala

In Kerala, protesters forced closure of shops as state buses and private vehicles remained off roads. Rail and air services were unaffected. Three major IT parks of the state are functioning normally. Bandh supporters have exempted flood-affected areas from the strike.

Assam

Tens of people were detained in Assam from different districts after they tried to block roads and highways to enforce the Bharat Bandh, a senior police official said.

Congress leaders and party workers in Assam carried out a march in Guwahati on Sunday to ‘create awareness’ and seek public support for the shutdown.

Led by party in-charge for the state Harish Rawat and Assam unit chief Ripun Bora, Congress workers shouted slogans against the BJP for failing to control spiralling prices of petroleum products.

Protesters in Gujarat’s Bharuch burnt tyres and stopped buses. Congress workers vandalised a petrol pump in Ujjain during the Bharat Bandh protests while they held sit-ins in Chhattisgarh.

Uttar Pradesh

In Lucknow, chief of the Uttar Pradesh unit of Congress, Raj Babbar said the BJP government was not concerned about the sufferings of the common man and only cared for the rights of a few influential people.

“Inflation and soaring prices of fuel have made people’s lives difficult. We will try to draw the attention of the ruling party towards the people’s problems,” he said.

In view of Congress’ Bharat Bandh call, the Samajwadi Party has cancelled all meetings scheduled for Monday.

Congress workers are expected to stage demonstrations and hold marches in Allahabad, Gorakhpur, Varanasi, Agra on Monday while party leaders and workers took out a procession in Meerut on Sunday and appealed to the people to support their bandh call.

Bengal

The Trinamool Congress in West Bengal has backed the protest, but ruled out its participation in the shutdown. The party said it differed on the issue of strike with the pro-bandh political parties, but promised to take out protest marches across the state.

The West Bengal government has promised to take all measures to maintain the public utility services on Monday. Traders were asked to keep their establishments open on Monday and assured of all protective measures, a senior minister in the Mamata Banerjee cabinet said.

Goa

The Goa unit of the Congress has said it will not take part in the bandh to avoid inconvenience to local people ahead of the Ganesh festival.

Vijay Bhike, North Goa Congress district president said the party’s workers will instead hold peaceful protests and distribute pamphlets at petrol pumps as part of their protests.

Tripura

In Tripura where the Congress has been marginalised, the party said its bandh will be peaceful.

The Left Front, which lost power to BJP this March, will also hold a 12-hour strike on Monday against the NDA government at Centre for failing to curb fuel price hike, unemployment, farmers’ problems and other issues.

The state’s BJP-led coalition government has issued a circular making it mandatory for all state employees to be present in their offices on Monday.

Haryana

In Haryana’s Hisar, police said it was prepared to maintain law and order condition in the district. Police spokesperson Harish Bharadwaj said, “Under the leadership of deputy superintendent of police (DSP), all the police teams will keep strict vigil. We have not received any letter regarding the closure of any school so far, but there will be proper security force deployment will be arranged in front of every education institute.”

Superintendent of police (SP), Hisar Shiv Charan will closely monitor every situation and no one will be allowed to breach the law and order condition, he said.

Rajasthan

The Rajasthan police department has asked all superintendents of police and commissioners to keep a strict vigil in their respective areas.

“In order to maintain peace, we have contacted all the SP’s and commissioners and told them that no rally should be allowed in their areas,” said NRK Reddy, special director general of police.

“As a part of precautionary measure, four companies of Rajasthan Armed Constabularies (RAC) in Jaipur, one constabulary each in Baran and Bharatpur and one small platoon to Ajmer have been deployed,” he said.

21 parties support bandh: Congress

Although the parties and some non-BJP state governments had promised not to inconvenience people and ensure supply of essential services, the shutdown affected normal life in many parts of the country.

Congress had on Sunday claimed the support of 21 political parties and a number of chambers of commerce and traders’ associations for the bandh against the BJP government’s failure to take action to reduce the prices of petrol and diesel and reduce hardships to the common man.

The BJP has accused Congress of shedding “crocodile tears” over rising fuel prices, saying the opposition party gave protection to the “price rise mafia” when it was in power and is now “exploiting” the masses.

A host of major opposition parties — the Left, SP, RJD, NCP, DMK — have supported the bandh and are expected to observe it in several states.

The Left parties — the Communist Party of India (Marxist), Communist Party of India, Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist)-Liberation, RSP and Socialist Unity Centre of India (SUC) — have given a separate call for bandh on the same day over the hike in fuel prices, the problem of farmers and unemployment issues.

The Congress has demanded that petrol and diesel should be brought under GST, by which oil prices could drop by about Rs 15 to Rs 18.

(With inputs from agencies)

First Published: Sep 10, 2018 07:10 IST