Bandh disrupts normal life, but Pune manages to scrape through
The nationwide bandh called by the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and the left-wing parties to protest against the price hike in petrol and high cost of other essential commodities yesterday got a mixed response in the city
The bandh did not affect the daily activities of the people much, although some stone-pelting and damage to vehicles was reported. The violence and the fact that many shops remained shut disrupted the life of the common man to some extent. The main targets of protesters were the Swargate, Kothrud, Deccan and PMC bus depots, where 27 PMPML buses were damaged.
Many political leaders from various parties were arrested while holding morchas and released later in the day.
Law and order
Barring incidents of damage caused to PMPML buses in different parts of the city, there was no untoward incident reported in any police station jurisdiction. The police registered 13 cases against unidentified protesters for damaging 23 public transport buses in areas under the jurisdiction of Vishrambaug, Shivajinagar, Swargate, Chatushringi and Bhosari police stations.
“PMPML lodged 13 cases in which 23 buses were ransacked by the protesters,” Deputy Commissioner of Police (Special Branch) Makarand Ranade said.
“In the last two days, we took preventive action against 429 people and during the protest we detained 243, including BJP legislators Girish Bapat and Devendra Phadanvis, and later released them as per the Bombay Police Act.”
He said the Special Branch had issued notices to 500 political leaders and workers and warned them that if their party workers damaged any public property the compensation would be recovered from them.
Police bandobast was heavy during the bandh. “We had deployed our 80 per cent strength during the bandh and apart from that 12 platoons of State Reserve Police Force, six Quick Response Teams and nearly 300 Home Guards were deployed in the city throughout the day,” Ranade said.
The bandh affected all kinds of public transport. As most people preferred to stay home for safety reasons, rail services, autorickshaw drivers, the PMPML and the ST suffered nearly 50 per cent revenue loss.
There was not much activity at most bus stops like Swargate, PMC and Shivaji Nagar that see large crowds on other days.
“We have had to cancel almost 50 per cent trips because of low response,” Vijay Divate, depot manager, Swargate, said. “We suffered a heavy loss.”
In spite of damage to 27 buses, PMPML did not cancel or make changes to routine services. “We are following our schedule. Though the response from commuters is very low, we have not cut down on services,” Trupti Pathak, booking employee at the PMC bus stand, said.
Bapu Bhave, president, Autorickshaw Federation, said, “Loss of a day’s income impacts auto men a lot. As the bandh was a political event, we didn’t participate in it. Yet, as most people preferred not to travel, it resulted in a loss of about Rs 200 for every rickshaw driver.”
Regular trains like the Deccan Queen, Pragati, Indrayani were almost empty. “The atmosphere was tense, so most women avoided travel,” Hemant Tapale, president, Pune-Mumbai railway commuters’ union, said.
Health services had been kept outside the ambit of the shutdown, but the effects of the bandh could still be seen at some hospitals.
“Besides doctors, we need paramedics, nurses, ward boys and others in a hospital. Their absence on bandh days cripples the system,” a high-ranking official of a government medical college said. “Employees who live in the suburbs say it is difficult for them to travel long distances risking their lives.”
A nurse at Sassoon General Hospital said, “In the recent past, there have been cases of stone-pelting and damage to public transport, so many of my co-workers stayed back home.”
Though some private hospitals in the city did face a manpower crunch, most were able to function without major problems. “I have not faced any problem coming to hospital today and even the patients didn’t complain. The ambulance service also was not affected,” the deputy medical superintendent of a private hospital said.
Niranjan Pathare, a patient’s colleague, said, “My colleague had an electric shock in the factory. We brought him here in the office car without any problem. It was a swift journey from Khadki to the hospital.”
More than half of the petrol pumps in the city and Pimpri-Chinchwad remained shut. Pune District Petrol Dealers Association (PDPDA) officials said pumps were closed for fear of damage to property and not out of support for the bandh.
PDPDA president Baba Dhumal said, “Over half of the petrol pumps in the city and Pimpri-Chinchwad were closed. It’s necessary to stop the increase in fuel prices, but bandhs can never achieve this.”
Dhumal said the government does not have any control on the oil companies, which enjoy autonomy in deciding prices. “Since last month these firms are creating artificial scarcity of fuel,” Dhumal said.
Work from home
Private companies in the city told their employees to come to work at their own risk. “Our team leader told us a day before the bandh that we should work from home instead of taking the risk of coming to office,” Supriya Jagtap, employee of an MNC in Yerawada, said, adding that her company saw 40 per cent attendance.
Harshad Jambavalikar, an employee of a logistics company near Pune railway station, said people in his company were told to stay at home for their safety. “Still, we went to office, but closed it after seeing political workers in the neighbouring office,” Jambavalikar said.
Customer inflow at banks was low across the city. At the main branch of the State Bank of India (SBI) near the District Collector’s Office, the counters that usually throng with customers wore a deserted look.
Aniruddha Deshpande, assistant general manager, SBI main office, claimed there was not much impact on business. “If the routine customers could not visit us, they can come to us tomorrow,” he said.
Vishwanath Hedaoo of the SBI Treasury Branch said there was a dip of 15 to 20 per cent in business. “Our branch provides services to government offices and also provides service counters for income tax, VAT, professional tax and Indian Railway and Post Offices in the city. Overall, there was 20 per cent less collection,” he said.
Pradeep Nibandhe, branch manager, Mahesh Sahakari Bank, Market Yard, said, “There was a sizable impact of the bandh as the collection on Thursday was about 50 per cent lower. Customer flow was very low and it affected the cash remittance transaction.”
Most of the 18 single-screen theatres and 14 multiplexes in the city kept their evening shows going after cancelling the morning and afternoon shows.
Sadanand Mohol, president, Pune Exhibitors’ Association, said most theatres were shut earlier in the day out of fear of untoward incidents. “We are facing losses,” he said.
Balkrishna Bhide, Manager, Prabhat Cinema, said, “The evening show at 6 pm saw over 50 per cent occupancy.”
Prakash Chaphalkar, an office-bearer of the Multiplex Theatre Association, said, “Many multiplexes in the city preferred to cancel the morning and afternoon shows to avoid any problems.”
Girish Bapat (BJP MLA): The citizens themselves made the bandh successful by shutting their shops and not moving out from their houses. As far as our protests are concerned, it was all basically peaceful in nature. We didn’t force anyone to stop, be it rickshaws or other modes of transport, except the PMPML. Charges are being levelled against us that our workers damaged PMPML buses in the city, but we never ordered anyone to damage public property.
Chandrakant Mokate (Shiv Sena MLA): This time Balasaheb (Thackeray) himself has appealed to the people to support the bandh and such messages from the Sena supremo are always taken seriously by the people. The bandh was a perfect example of it. Citizens enthusiastically took part in it by not leaving home. I heard that some overenthusiastic party workers had damaged PMPML buses, but it is common thing during any nationwide protest.
Kiran Moghe (CPM): The UPA should take cognizance of the successful bandh called by the NDA and leftist parties. The anger of the common man against the fuel price hike got vented through the bandh as common people spontaneously took part in it and made it successful.
Rajesh Jagtap (Janata Dal United): We staged an agitation over the petrol price hike in front of the District Collector’s Office. Many activists from the party participated in the agitation. Citizens supported our agitation by joining hands with us. We also submitted a memorandum to the Collector condemning the petrol price hike.
Mohan Joshi (Cong MLC): Opposition parties have all the right to call a bandh, but such pressure tactics work only if citizens support it. During this bandh, day-to-day functioning was on and buses, autos and other modes of transport also functioned smoothly. So, I would say that the bandh called by the BJP-led NDA was completely unsuccessful. I also condemn the act of damaging PMPML buses during the bandh that opposition parties resorted to.
Many support bandh, but feel protesters should eschew violence
When there were polls, government wanted votes and had reduced the petrol price by Rs 2. Now when there are no elections, they have increased the price by Rs 7.50
Samidha Singhal (46), teacher
Other cities have good public transport. Here we depend on our vehicles. As a student it’s tough, as all my pocket money goes in petrol. We have no option but to support the bandh
Shreyanshi Singhal (18), student
I completely support the bandh as what the government has done is not fair. My income has decreased by 25 per cent as I have to spend more on petrol
Kisan Khadke, rickshaw driver
The number of customers has gone down considerably today in comparison to any other day. I can’t really say if I support the bandh or not, because in any way it is the masses that suffer
Shoaib (20), vendor
I am extremely disappointed with the government as the hike of Rs 7.50 cannot be justified in any way. I am a student and all my money goes in filling fuel in my vehicle. I support the bandh, but destroying public property is not the solution. I think we should follow the Gandhian approach
Vernon D’mello (21), student