When it came to jumping onto the party bandwagon and holding the entire district of Thane to ransom through a bandh, Shiv Sena MLA Pratap Sarnaik was the quintessential politician his name was seen on every other hoarding that announced the ‘All-Party Thane Bandh’ protesting the demolition of illegal structures in Thane and Mumbra.
But when it came to shutting shop and bearing losses, the businessman in Sarnaik couldn’t quite stomach the idea of suffering the same fate as other entrepreneurs in the district who were subjected to the bandh yesterday.
Small wonder then that Hotel Vihang’s Inn on Thane’s Ghodbunder Road, which is owned by Sarnaik, was open for business yesterday. Its shutters were up and its kitchen open, even as the rest of Thane bore a deserted look, with over 10,000 shops and establishments being forced to remain shut for the 12-hour bandh. Buses stayed back in their depots and not a single auto-rickshaw could be seen rattling along the road.
Thanks to Sarnaik’s political connections, however, no angry mob of party workers collected outside the hotel to spew venom, vandalise his property, or force workers to pull the shutters down. The restaurant served like any other day. A team from MiD DAY was even served some ‘sizzling brownie with ice-cream’ at the establishment. The reporters pocketed the bill as proof of the meal.
Bandh for all?
The bandh was called in protest of Thane Municipal Corporation’s demolition drive against illegal structures, in the wake of the recent Mumbra building collapse. Leaders of Shiv Sena, NCP and the Congress parties have demanded that residents of the illegal structures earmarked for demolition be provided with alternative accommodations before their homes are razed. Their chosen means to achieving this end was a bandh, which brought the lives of the district’s 30 lakh residents to a screeching halt yesterday.
The politicos didn’t even spare the Thane Municipal Transport (TMT) buses, even though Shiv Sena and Congress run the corporation, with an NCP man acting as its standing committee chairperson. According to TMT manager D Tekle, the transport service’s losses alone amounted to Rs 10 lakh.
Rs 10 crore lost
The bandh caused collective losses to the tune of Rs 10 crore to residents and service providers of the district yesterday. Mukesh Savla of the Thane Vyapar Udyog Mahasangh said, “There are nearly 10,000 establishments in Thane and everything remained shut. We cannot say how much the exact loss was but Rs 8-10 crore is the rough estimate.”
The other side
When contacted by MiD DAY, Pratap Sarnaik at first bragged about how successful the bandh had been, thanks to the ‘cooperation’ of businessmen who had ‘voluntarily’ shut their shops, hotels and restaurants as a gesture of support.
Asked how his hotel was the lone establishment open for business, he expressed shock and disbelief: “I had personally taken rounds of the district to ensure that the restaurants owned by me were shut. I had even given instructions to the staff of the hotel’s restaurant to stop services in support of the bandh.”
When informed that a meal had been enjoyed in the restaurant and the bill saved, he asked to see it, claiming that it was impossible that his own restaurants were functioning. In spite of repeated attempts, Shiv Sena chief for Thane, Eknath Shinde, and NCP leader for Thane, Jitendra Awhad, could not be reached for comment.