The nationwide hartal and ‘Bharat Bandh,' called simultaneously by the Left parties and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) respectively in protest against hike in the price of petroleum products, paralysed life across the State on Monday.

Public and private transport vehicles were off the road and shops and commercial establishments had their shutters down as the hartal brought life in the streets of the State to complete paralysis. Government offices and educational institutions were unable to function and there was no activity in the industrial units, major markets and the Kochi port.

Flight and train services were not hit, but those who reached the airports and railway stations were stranded. Although the police offered some help at some places, it was far too inadequate and the passengers had to wait out till the dawn-to-dusk hartal passed off. Unlike on previous such occasions, only very few private cars and two-wheelers were on view on the main roads.

The Kerala Assembly had its sitting as scheduled earlier. While the Ministers came walking to the Assembly, the ruling front MLAs came marching to the House. Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan reached Speaker K. Radhakrishnan's official residence adjacent to the Assembly complex well before the hartal began and walked into the Assembly premises. The Opposition MLAs arrived at the Assembly by KSRTC buses that normally ferry MLAs to the House.

Barring some minor incidents, the hartal did not result in any violence. In Kochi, an attempt to block the path of lawyers at the Kerala High Court resulted in the Chief Justice reportedly summoning Advocate General C.P. Sudhakara Prasad and securing an assurance from him that there would be no obstruction to the lawyers reaching the court.

Activists of both the LDF and the BJP took out marches in different parts of the State. In Thiruvananthapuram, BJP State president V. Muraleedharan led his party workers to push two-wheelers to the city centre to register their protest against the petroleum product price hike. The LDF march in the capital was inaugurated by CPI(M) State secretariat member M.V. Govindan Master.

LDF convener Vaikom Viswan saluted the people of Kerala for having made the hartal a success and said the participation in the hartal was total.

Keywords: Bharat Bandh