Just hours after the announcement of Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray’s demise on Saturday afternoon, shops began downing their shutters fearing violence in case they remained open. Many establishments shut down before one could blink an eyelid, some claim they were forced to shut down as Sena supporters came around in groups asking them to do so, while others simply closed in fear.
Most importantly auto rickshaws and taxis went off the roads very quickly. A city which has been in the eye of a storm so many times earlier for different reasons, seems to have lost its famed bravado to stick it out in adverse situations. Today, the Mumbaikar, having learnt from past bitter experience wants to get home as soon as possible at the slightest hint oftrouble.
Having said that, the public was put to huge inconvenience on Saturday evening and Sunday, post Thackeray’s death. While paying respect is vital, it is equally important not to inconvenience public by forcing people to down shutters.
On Saturday afternoon, panicky people were caught unawares and many were stranded at the airport and railway stations. Petrol pumps too shut down and remained closed.
Essentials like bread and milk were in scarce supply. While sentiments of supporters can be understood, what one cannot fathom is why a bandh could not be called after a few hours, preparing people. Essential services should have been allowed to continue on Saturday, so that people did not have to scrounge around.
Even yesterday, Sunday, at least some facilities should havebeen made available to the public. Fliers too missed their flights yesterday due to paucity of transport and the traffic situation. One can only conjecture at the hardship people in emergencies had to undergo.
With no disrespect to the late Bal Thackeray, his followers must heed the adage: one can only command respect, never demand it.