New Delhi: Attendance in a host of offices was thin in and around India`s national capital with most managements declaring Thursday a half-day, ahead of the Ayodhya land dispute verdict. Some firms even declared a holiday.
As a result, roads were less congested and the Metro service saw less than half the normal number of passengers on a week day, with companies preferring to play it safe to ensure safety of their staff should there be any trouble after the verdict on the emotive issue.
"We declare an off for Sep 30. For any crucial work, you are free to work from home," the Indian arm of US software major Microsoft Corp said in a missive to its employees across the country.
It was also a coincidence that the banking industry, which employs a large number of people across the country, had no public dealing Thursday for the half-yearly closing Sep 30.
According to the human resources head of another company, which has a small office in the capital and another large one at Gurgaon, on the outskirts of New Delhi, the timings had already been changed in view of the upcoming Commonwealth Games 2010.
"Since Monday, we are already operating from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. to avoid the rush hour during the Games. Today, since the Ayodhya verdict is expected after 3 p.m. or so, we have asked our staff to leave by 2 p.m.," she said.
Little wonder, Sandhya Jain, who works for a media outfit in South Delhi and often takes the Metro from her residence in Gurgaon to reach office, easily found a seat, despite starting at the peak hour, a little before 9 a.m.
"Normally, the Metro is packed around this time. I often have to skip a train since it is sometimes impossible to board. But today I was not only able to board easily, but also managed to get a seat for myself," she said.
Even the stock markets, it appeared, was quiet ahead of the court verdict.
The 30-share sensitive index (Sensex) of the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE), opened at 19,931.49 points, and in about 15 minutes was ruling marginally higher by 24.97 points, or 0.13 percent, at 19,981.31 points over the previous close at 19,956.34 points.
A three-member Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court is expected to deliver its verdict on the 61-year old lawsuit over the Babri Masjid-Ramjanmabhoomi land dispute, which many fear could trigger tensions along religious lines.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself stepped in and made a passionate appeal in a half-page newspaper advertisement, urging people to treat the verdict with utmost respect. Similar requests were made by a host of political leaders and celebrities.
"We must remember the fact that the judgment, at this stage, is one step in the judicial process. The determination of the issues need not necessarily end with this judgment, unless it is accepted by all parties," the prime minister said.