Bharat bandh: Mixed response in Maharashtra

The Bharat bandh called by NDA and Left parties to protest the petrol price hike onThursday evoked a mixed response in Maharashtra.

Mumbai: The Bharat bandh called by NDA and Left parties to protest the petrol price hike onThursday evoked a mixed response in Maharashtra.

Several shops and commercial establishments remained closed. However, local trains and city buses operated normally, as did most of the taxis and autorickshaws.

Over 60 municipal buses in Mumbai were damaged in stone pelting by protesters at various places including Mulund, Dadar, Worli and Currey Road. Two bus drivers were injured in the stone-pelting, police said.

Hundreds of activists were detained by police following protests and `rasta-roko` staged by them at various places.

Those detained included state BJP state president Sudhir Mungantiwar, former MP Kirit Somaiya and MLA Sardar Tara Singh.

Maharashtra Home Minister R R Patil said incidents of vandalism during the bandh will be looked into and compensation sought from organisation which were behind them.

People have not responded to the bandh, Patil said.

Banks witnessed thin business in Mumbai. While branches were open as the city transport system was not impacted by the strike, the banking district witnessed low business because there was a near-total compliance to the bandh call by traders and other commercial establishments.

In Akola, protesters waved flags at Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, who was proceeding to attend a function at the local agriculture university.

In Ratnagiri, social activist Anna Hazare, on a statewide tour of Maharashtra, appealed protesters to implement the bandh in a peaceful manner. "Any violence will be against the spirit of the bandh," he said.

Attendance in Mantralaya took a hit as many employees, stayed at home due to the bandh, and only 49.15 per cent reported for work.

"Of the 8,000 staff in Mantralaya, 3,922 reported for duty," a senior official said here.

Many Mantralaya staffers reside at the government colony in Bandra and managed to take the bus and train from Bandra to the workplace.

A member of the Mantralaya State Gazetted Officers Federation said an important reason why staffers stayed away was fear. However, the attendance was still better as compared to earlier bandhs, he said.

At various places in the state, BJP workers staged protest in a novel manner by taking out bullock cart rallies, horse drawn carriages and dragged idle motorcycles on the roads to convey their anger over petrol price rise.

The bandh brought shootings of several movies and TV serials to a halt here.

Most of the film studios including Filmcity, Filmistan, Mehboob and Filmalaya either had no bookings for shooting or cancelled their scheduled shoots.

"Due to the bandh no shoots for movies or TV serials were scheduled for today. There was no booking also," Vidya Zode, assistant accountant from Filmcity, said.

In neighbouring Thane, a group of BJP activists resorted to stone pelting and damaged buses near Thane railway station around midnight.

At least 12 people, including BJP city president Sandeep Lele, were arrested in this connection.

Police said bandh was around 80 per cent in Thane with areas of Mumbra and Bhiwandi (predominantly minority community dominated) excluded from it.

While the trains ran behind schedule, buses and a few autorickshaws were plying on roads, commercial establishments and shops remained closed.


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