Traders, small, medium and big, responded in a big way to call by Opposition parties for a general strike against the nod given by the government for the entry of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the retail sector, hike in diesel price and rationing of domestic gas cylinders, as the day-long protest remained incident free in Tamil Nadu.
Though almost all political parties, including the DMK, an ally of the Congress-led UPA, supported the strike, mostly leaders and cadres of the Left parties and BJP participated in direct action such as blocking road and rail traffic.
CPI(M) State secretary G. Ramakrishnan and scores of party cadres were arrested when they staged rail roko at the Guindy railway station. BJP State president Pon. Radhakrishnan, senior leader L. Ganesan and others were arrested for staging road roko on Anna Salai.
Thousands of workers and party functionaries belonging to various parties and unions were taken into custody across the State as they tried to block road traffic and movement of trains. They were released in the evening.
In Chennai, life remained undisturbed, even though barring medical shops, the near-total participation of traders had a huge impact. Even restaurants, which normally keep away from strikes and bandh, put up the shutters.
The participation of two major traders’ bodies – the Tamil Nadu Vanigar Sangankalin Peravai led by T. Vellaiyan, and its rival organisation Tamil Nadu Vanigar Sangankalin Peramaippu, led by A. M. Vikiramaraja, was the reason behind the strike’s success.
While senior transport officials maintained that the bus services were undisturbed, Tamil Nadu State Transport Employees Federations, affiliated to the CITU, said 60 per cent of the transport workers took part in the strike.
The three delta districts of Thanjavur, Tiruvarur and Nagapattinam in the central region, where the Left parties have a substantial presence, felt the complete impact of the strike with shops and commercial establishments, including eateries and petty shops, remaining closed.
In the industrial belts, including Coimbatore, where also the Left trade unions have a huge following, units – big and small – functioned. Industrial heads said they had to function during the bandh, as the units were already hit by poor power supply.
In Tirupur, apparel production was hit as 98 per cent of the units did not function. CPI National Council Member and former Member of Parliament K. Subbarayan, member of his party and of the CPI (M) staged rail roko.
In Tiruchi, Karur, Pudukottai, Perambalur and Ariyalur districts, the bandh call evoked a partial response with sections of traders joining the strike. Schools, colleges and government offices functioned normally.
Despite sporadic agitations, public transport too was not affected in the central region.
In the nine southern districts, though, shops remained closed and public transport operations remained normal; however, inter-State bus services to Kerala from Kanyakumari district were affected. Goods carriers were off the roads and educational institutions functioned normally.
Almost all the shops in busy trade areas of Madurai, except pharmacies and small eateries, remained closed. Departmental stores and malls also did not function.
In Vellore, several commercial establishments on arterial roads remained closed till evening. The bandh was near total in Tiruvannamalai district.