With reduced traffic on arterial roads and most shops downing shutters, Thursday’s bandh seemed more like an extended holiday. The bandh, called by various organisations for a combination of reasons, evoked a mixed response in the city.
Several people chose to remain indoors for couple of hours in the morning, fearing problems in transportation. B.R. Prasad who works in Parrys’ Corner said, “Security was stepped up at most suburban railway stations. At least 10 per cent of the staff members were absent. Many of us left office by 3 p.m. to reach home safely.”
Many IT companies too let their employees leave early while a few asked their employees to work from home. V. Sujatha, working in a company on Anna Salai, said, “I got a text message from the company informing that I could work between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. as cabs were not operated during office hours.”
People commuting by autorickshaws had to shell out more as only a limited number of share-autorickshaws and autorickshaws plied the roads. Some commuters like M. Kasiraju of Velachery chose to travel by MTC buses.
An MTC official said, “We usually operate 3,337 buses. On Thursday, we added 20 more buses. This was to ensure people did not get stranded if autorickshaws refused to run.”
The officials are also making a list of MTC personnel who took part in the bandh.
Nearly 90 per cent of shops downed their shutters in protest of the Central Government’s move to allow Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). Several traders’ organisations, including Tamil Nadu Vanigar Sangankalin Peramaippu and Tamil Nadu Vanigar Sangankalin Peravai, staged demonstrations across the city.
A.M. Vikramaraja, president of Tamil Nadu Vanigar Sangankalin Peramaippu, said nearly three lakh shops in the city remained closed resulting in a loss of Rs. 300 crore in Chennai alone.
The Koyambedu wholesale market wore a deserted look as most shops except those selling flowers were closed. S. Chandran, a wholesale trader, said, “At least 90 per cent of the lorries did not operate since Wednesday evening. There was a heavy demand for vegetables and fruits that cost at least 30 per cent more on Thursday.”
Several shops in the market opened around 4 p.m. and sold produce that was in stock.
Lorry owners too said that their strike was a partial success as 70 per cent of the 10,000 vehicles transporting goods in and out of the city stayed off the roads demanding a rollback of diesel price hike. R. Sugumar, president of Confederation of Surface Transport (Tamil Nadu) said only vehicles transporting sand and cement were operated. Lorry owners in the city suffered a revenue loss of Rs. 1.5 crore.
“Our expenditure has increased by 15 per cent and we are unable to increase freight charges as production of goods has dwindled of late. We are planning to have a demonstration near Indian Oil Corporation office next week. If the government does not withdraw the hike, we plan to go on indefinite strike from October 19.”
Around 10,000 members of Tamil Nadu Hotels Association joined in the bandh to protest the stringent penalty clauses and standards prescribed in the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006. Several hotels, tea stalls, sweet stalls, restaurants and bakeries remained closed till 4 p.m.
According to S. Srinivasan, secretary of Tamil Nadu Hotels Association, there are over 25,000 such establishments in the State and though all of them welcome the Act, the penalties, including life punishment and fine up to Rs.10 lakh, are unacceptable. (With inputs from K. Lakshmi, Deepa H. Ramakrishnan, Vivek Narayanan and Vasudha Venugopal)