The two-day nationwide strike called by trade unions, starting Wednesday, drew a mixed response in Bangalore.
Though the city’s traffic-choked roads saw some respite given that a majority of public transport — many buses and a majority of autorickshaws — stayed off the road, several shops, malls, theatres and hotels were open. Barring stray incidents of stone-pelting targeting BMTC (Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation) buses in Bommasandra, Peenya, Mariyappanapalya and Ramamurthynagar, early in the day, the strike remained peaceful. All schools and colleges remained closed.
The strike was most visible in the industrial areas of the city such as Peenya, where a majority of around 22 lakh workers employed in small and large scale manufacturing factories struck work. The city’s large garment industry, barring a few small units, remained shut.
In many State government offices, the attendance was thin. The strike did not impact a few departments after a section of union workers (the Karnataka State Government Employees Association) pulled out. Bank and insurance sector workers completely stayed away from work, while some PSUs saw mixed response. APMC yards shut down, an indication that the strike was widely backed by informal sector workers, said Prasanna Kumar of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU).
Belying fears of a complete shutdown of public transport, buses were seen plying in some parts of the city. However, the Kempegowda Bus Station (KBS) wore a relatively deserted look. According to BMTC sources, 56 per cent of the buses operated, and Thursday will see the entire fleet operational. BMTC Chief Traffic Manager C. Nagaraj said of the 1,358 buses that operate in two shifts, only 629 were on the road. With at least 80 per cent taxis running, taxi services remained unaffected. But the airport saw fewer passengers given the strike was announced months in advance. Around 80 per cent of the airport taxi fleet was operational, sources said.
Autos off roads
The strike, backed by an umbrella of eight autorickshaw trade unions, saw autorickshaw drivers stay off the road. Passengers arriving at the railway station or bus-stands had to depend on either BMTC buses or private vehicles. While autos plying around the Majestic area were sparse, some neighbourhoods saw no such scarcity. Speaking to The Hindu, M. Manjunath, president, Adarsha Auto Drivers Union, said there were more than one lakh auto drivers in the city who chose to use the strike as a platform to press for a 10-point charter of demands, which included a grant of Rs. 3,000 to install digital meters and pension after 60 years.
Though most staff in the city’s public hospitals made it to work, the strike kept away a majority of patients, as much as 70 per cent, said sources in hospitals across the city. For instance, Victoria Hospital which receives a daily average of 1,000 out-patients, saw only 235. As against the daily average of 400 out-patients, only 111 turned up at Vani Vilas Hospital. Ambulance services were normal and medical shops open.
It was business as usual at courts in the city. At the High Court and most lower courts, hearings went on as scheduled. A small decline was seen in the attendance of court employees as some dependent on public transport could not make it. However, in civil court a few cases were adjourned.
Movie theatres were open, though occupancy was about half, said K.V. Chandrashekhar, president, Exhibitors’ Sector. Though it was a holiday for many, lack of transport discouraged them from coming to cinemas, said an exhibitor.