BHUBANESWAR: The dawn-to-dusk ‘bandh’, protesting the steepest-ever hike in petrol prices, evoked spontaneous response across the State on Thursday. Life came to a grinding halt as all establishments __ Government and private __ shut down on their own making the bandh total.
Mass transport system was severely paralysed as buses and other modes of conveyance remained off the roads for better part of the day. At least nine local trains were cancelled leaving passengers stranded. As many as 16 long-distance trains had to be regulated at various places till noon after which train services resumed. The private and Government bus services were crippled and so was the transport system.
Reports from Rourkela, Sambalpur, Balasore, Berhampur, Jajpur, Cuttack, Jeypore, Baripada, Jharsuguda and Bargarh indicated that the shutdown drew spontaneous response from the people. Across the State, necessary services such as banking, telegraph and postal were badly hit.
While the bandh was total, there was no report of any untoward incident, barring one, anywhere in the State. “There has been no report of any violence from any part of the State. It has been peaceful and hundreds of protestors courted arrest,” Additional Director-General of Police Sanjiv Marik said.
Nationally, the bandh call was given by NDA and Left parties whereas in Odisha, it was supported by the ruling BJD. The BJD is going through a turmoil, but that did not seem to have any impact as people did not venture out all day. A gruelling heatwave and humid weather also kept many indoors.
In the Capital, the protests started in the wee hours itself with members of the CPI (ML) blocking the National Highway-5. It gained intensity soon after as agitators burnt tyres and blocked roads across the City. Police pressed into service fire tenders to put out the flames on the roads to clear passage.
On the outskirts at Janla, an ambulance was intercepted by the agitators and ransacked. Barring this, no other untoward incident was reported.
While shopping and commercial establishments did not open, Secretariat and Central Government offices remained unattended in the City as the day turned out to be an ‘unofficial holiday’. Till 5 pm, there was curfew-like atmosphere on the roads.
The BJP staged a dharna near the Raj Bhawan to lodge its protest against the petrol price hike as its leaders like Kanak Vardhan Singhdeo and Bijay Mohapatra pedalled their way before courting arrest. Other leaders such as Jual Oram and Biswabhusan Harichandan led marches from the party office.
Though most of the BJD leaders were found camping at Naveen Niwas in a show of loyalty to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, the youth wing of the party picketed Bhubaneswar Railway Station, SBI Local Head Office, BSNL Office and Passport Office before courting arrest.
State BYJD president Sanjay Dasburma said the complete shutdown reflected the people’s support to Naveen.