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Transport strike hits life in district

Staff Reporter
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Buses, autorickshaws, and taxis keep off the road, no incidents of violence reported

The dawn-to-dusk strike by motor transport employees in protest against the hike in the price of petrol affected normal life in the district on Friday. No incidents of violence were reported.

Fearing strike-related violence, a large section of private vehicles that took to the road displayed ‘marriage,' ‘airport,' ‘hospital,' and ‘emergency' boards prominently on their windscreens. Many sped through the relatively empty roads with their headlights switched on.

The Joint Action Council of Transport Workers, a platform of trade unions of professional drivers and crew of cargo and transport vehicles, gave the 12-hour strike call. Its members, thousands of them, boycotted work causing the public transport system in the district to shut down.

Private and State transport buses, autorickshaws, and taxis remained off the road for the better part of the day. Educational institutions remained closed. The public had much difficulty getting to hospitals and other important facilities.

Shops closed

Lack of public transport resulted in low attendance at government offices.

Most commercial establishments remained closed. Markets wore a deserted look. A trader at Chala said there was no point in keeping his textile shop open on a day the public transport system had stopped.

“Most of my salesgirls live in the suburbs and they told me in advance that it will be difficult to report for work on Friday,” he said.

Most restaurants and hotels also downed shutters anticipating poor business on Friday. The police operated a few buses to transport air and railway passengers to hotels in the city.

Scores of passengers who alighted at the airport, many of them Tamil Nadu residents employed in the Gulf, were frustrated that they could not make it home on the day of their arrival.

Many of them had arrived in their country after several months of toil on foreign soil and were looking forward to meet their kith and kin.

Several rent-a-car firms, which operate private luxury vehicles as taxis, made considerable profit transporting passengers to and from airports, bus terminals and railway stations in the district.

A city resident said one such firm charged him Rs.1,500 to ferry a relative of his from the airport to the latter's home at Attingal. On an ordinary day, such a trip would have cost him less than Rs.500, he said.

A railway police official said many passengers who alighted at Thiruvananthapuram Central Railway Station waited out the strike on the platform, relying on the railway canteen and the station's restroom facilities.

20 CPI(M) men held

The police arrested 20 Communist Party of India (Marxist) activists who besieged the bus-stand of the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) at Attingal.

The KSRTC was forced to downsize its operations owing to lack of drivers, conductors, and mechanics. It resumed most of its long-distance operations by around 6.30 p.m.

The strike did not affect much the operations of multi-axle luxury buses that regularly operate long-distance night services to Bangalore, Chennai and Coimbatore from Thampanoor.

The strike also brought quick and easy profits to van drivers who operated services to the suburbs from Manacaud and the Overbridge junction, daring the wrath of the strike supporters.

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