Zee Media Bureau/Kamna Arora
The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena is on Wednesday holding protests across the state against collection of toll on roads and highways. Following are the highlights of the agitation:
Reports of 12 state run buses being vandalised by angry MNS workers in Pune.
Raj Thackeray announces that the Maharashtra CM called him while he was in detention and he will meet Chavan tomorrow at 9 am. Appealing for calm, the MNS chief says, "We did not intend to cause an inconvenience to people in the state". The government does not understand the trouble people are facing because of the toll, says Thackeray. The Maharashtra CM should fix a deadline to review the flawed toll collection system, says Thackeray, adding the MNS wanted to prove a point to the government and it has managed to do that.
MNS chief Raj Thackeray released after brief detention.
On the official Twitter account of Nationalist Congress Party, Maharashtra Home Minister RR Patil vows to take strict action against those who will break laws. He adds:
Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan says the MNS should engage in discussion instead of destroying public property. Chavan also claims that this is a political gimmick ahead of the upcoming elections.
"There is no need to destroy public property. Elections are coming, and they want to play politics. They should not create inconvenience to the public. But they should have discussion on this, and not become violent. We are discussing the toll policy, and accordingly we will decide," he said.
Shiv Sena says everyone has the right to protest in a democracy.
MNS workers block highway near Chembur.
According to a news channel, BJP says it wants a toll-free Maharashtra.
Raj Thackeray`s cousin and another senior party leader Shalini Thackeray leads an agitation of party activists near Dahisar toll post in north-west Mumbai.
On the Aurangabad-Beed highway, minor violence erupted as some activists, purportedly of the MNS, pelted stones at buses and private vehicles to protest Thackeray`s detention.
Raj Thackeray`s wife, Sharmila Thackeray, stages a sit-in demonstration outside the police station in Chembur, protesting the arrest of the senior party leaders.
The Maharashtra Police takes Raj Thackeray into preventive custody in Chembur. He is being taken in a police van along with his party workers. "Thackeray and other leaders have been placed under preventive detention. I cannot say when they will be released...may be after the agitation ends," says Pravin Salunkhe, a police officer.
Raj Thackeray, who is scheduled to lead the stir at the Vashi toll plaza in adjoining Navi Mumbai, leaves his home in Dadar in central Mumbai at about 10 AM.
MNS activists, including representatives of its women`s wings, storm roads and highways on the outskirts of Mumbai, Thane, Pune, Raigad, Nashik and other areas, attempting to halt the morning peak hour traffic.
School vehicles and college students are not being prevented by the activists and allowed to proceed to their institutions as usual, as also ambulances and other essential services. Thackeray had promised yesterday that life in cities would not be affected. "We have decided to exclude schools and colleges from the stir in view of exams. The cities won`t be affected by the stir," he had said.
"A person from the state government was in touch with me on the phone requesting me to call off the stir," the MNS leader had said yesterday.
In Thane, tyres are being burnt, while in Pune MNS workers are deflating tyres of some vehicles.
In Dahisar, a suburb of Mumbai, a group of hundred people led by MNS MLA Pravin Darekar has begun protest near Dahisar toll plaza. But nobody has been detained from the spot, police said.
In Pune, police round up about 25 MNS activists when they tried to disrupt traffic at Chandani chowk along Pune-Mumbai highway in response to the `rasta-roko`. Tyres of some heavy vehicles were deflated by the party workers, led by former MNS corporator Rajabhau Gorde, in the demonstration at Chandani chowk.
A similar protest near `Amritanjan` bridge along the highway disrupted vehicular traffic temporarily, police said, adding that a heavy bandobast has been put at various points in the city leading to highways where the toll collection booths are set up.
Police, accompanied by Rapid Action Force, are out in large numbers, stopping, catching and detaining hundreds of MNS activists.
The Mumbai Police serves notices on nearly 400 MNS office-bearers and activists, asking them to exercise restraint. "We have received the notice asking us to refrain from any activity that could result in law and order problems. We keep getting such notices everytime we launch any agitation program," said a MNS spokesperson.
Preparing for a defiant MNS, the police and the government machinery are geared up to handle the road blocks with security personnel deployed at sensitive locations, major roads, highways, junctions and entry-exit points to cities like Mumbai, Pune, Thane, Aurangabad, Nagpur and others.
Security has also been beefed up at the 145 toll collection booths across the state.
In the past few weeks, activists purportedly of the MNS vandalised several toll booths in places like Kolhapur, Thane, Mumbai, Aurangabad and Pune.
The latest round of anti-toll agitation started on January 26 at a Navi Mumbai rally when Raj Thackeray urged people not to pay toll and last Sunday he announced the state-wide road blockade programme in Pune.
The MNS has made it clear that all toll collections should be stopped for projects where the costs have been recovered and even in others, the rates should be rationalised.