Strike near-total, passengers stranded at railway and bus terminals

Forced closure of shops, attack on private vehicles, and demonstrations marked a nation-wide trade union strike, which evoked a near-total response in the district on Tuesday.

The incidents of violence, though minor, were reported mostly in the city. Strike supporters smashed the windscreens of five private vehicles parked on the General Hospital premises.

The damaged vehicles had been used to bring persons requiring urgent medical attention to the hospital.

The Cantonment police have registered a case of causing damage to property on the basis of a complaint filed by the Director of Health Services. Trade union activists damaged the windscreen of a vehicle in front of the Government Secretariat. Another group stopped a bus transporting employees to the Technopark, the State's Information Technology hub, and deflated its tires. The incident occurred in the Thumpa police station limits.

In Chirayankeezhu, trade union activists prevented employees of a nationalised bank from opening its local branch. Forced closure of shops and preventing government employees from entering their respective offices were reported from all over the district. Passengers who alighted at the airport and also at the Central bus and railway terminals had a difficult time reaching their destinations.

Those few autorickshaw and taxi drivers who braved the wrath of trade unionists to ferry passengers charged exorbitant rates for the risk they took. One air-passenger said he had to pay a taxi driver four times the normal fare to reach home.

Hundreds of persons living in lodges and hostels in the city could not get proper meals. Their regular restaurants, hotels, and messes had remained closed. A few wayside eateries had opened late in the afternoon to serve them bread, eggs, and tea.

Most residents spent the day cooped up in their homes. Only a few dared to venture out by car. Two-wheelers plied as usual. Many two-wheeler riders offered free rides to people stranded at bus stops and along the roads.

Most educational institutions in the district remained closed. Buses, both private and government-owned, conducting stage carriage services remained off the road. The Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) operated a few services on short routes with police escort and on a convoy basis.

The police helped ailing persons, chiefly cancer patients, to get to hospitals. Markets and public places wore a deserted look. The intensity of the strike seemed to wane in the afternoon with more people and vehicles venturing out.