BJP hartal leaves commuters in the lurch in Kerala

Despite the dawn-to-dusk hartal call from BJP, Sabarimala devotees pass through Chinnakada in Kollam on December 14, 2018.

Despite the dawn-to-dusk hartal call from BJP, Sabarimala devotees pass through Chinnakada in Kollam on December 14, 2018.   | Photo Credit: C. Sureshkumar

BJP calls for a judicial enquiry into Nair’s death; LDF, UDF term the hartal unwarranted.

The dawn-to-dusk general strike by the BJP left commuters and long-distance passengers in the lurch. Scores remained stranded without transport, food or water at railway stations, bus terminals and airports across Kerala on Friday morning.

At Thampanoor in Thiruvananthapuram, patients and their helpers had to rely on crowded police buses and voluntary free-taxi services to keep their appointments with doctors at the Regional Cancer Centre and the Government Medical College Hospital, Thiruvananthapuram.

The Kerala University and the State Public Services Commission cancelled tests. The strike perhaps most impacted students scheduled to appear for the postgraduate National Eligibility and Entrance Test (NEET) for various medical courses. Devoid of easy transport and fearing attacks from strike supporters, students and parents struggled to reach the exam centres in time for the competitive test.

At Pangode in Thiruvananthapuram, a set of local traders opposed BJP workers from forcibly closing shops.

The hartal appeared to have drawn widespread criticism that it was unwarranted.

Congress legislator Anil Akkara walked nearly 13 km to his house from Thrissur railway station to protest the “needless strike”. He said the BJP had imposed at least seven general strikes at the drop of a hat on Kerala since October and that the people were fatigued.

Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran condemned the hartal as a strike without a valid cause. He said Venugopal Nair’s self-immolation had nothing to do with Sabarimala.

BJP State president P. S. Sreedharan Pillai said he disagreed and called for a judicial enquiry into Nair’s death. Speaking to television journalists in New Delhi, Mr Pillai claimed that Nair had told his brother, Manikantan, a few hours before his death that he had attempted to immolate himself for “Ayappan”.

He said Nair had also echoed similar sentiments when to BJP former State president C. K. Padmanabhan when he called him on at the makeshift shed in front of the Secretariat. Mr Padmanabhan is on an indefinite hunger there to dissuade the Government from implementing the Supreme Court allowing the entry of women of all ages to Sabarimala.

Mr Pillai said the police had jumped the gun by delinking Nair's death from the Sabarimala issue before the magistrate finalised his report. The police had connived with the Government to sweep the real reason for Nair’s suicide under the carpet, he said.

The hartal appeared to be a generally relaxed affair at least in Thiruvananthapuram as it progressed into its sixth hour on Friday.

Private cars and motorbikes plied as usual. However, taxis, autos and public transport buses remained off the road. The KSRTC scaled down its schedules. It operated skeletal services to Sabarimala for Ayyappa devotees,

Trade came to a standstill in Chalai market, the capital’s commercial hub. A long line of lorries loaded with freight remained unattended as manual labourers did not turn for the loading and unloading work.

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Printable version | Mar 27, 2020 10:16:00 AM |

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