Mumbai holds its breath

Published: Nov 18, 2012, 10:55 IST | Team SMD |

With insufficient help from public transport, Mumbaikars had a difficult time getting home on Saturday. Mumbai shut down as news of Shiv Sena supreme Bal Thackeray's death spread

On Saturday, soon after news of Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray’s demise spread, Mumbaikars rushed home, shutters of shops and general stores were pulled down, and shopping malls were evacuated, out of fear of possible violence from the Shiv Sainiks.

Parel railway station
Commuters rush to Parel railway station to reach home soon after the news of Bal Thackeray’s death. Pic/Datta Kumbhar

By 5.30 pm, Swami Vivekanand, LBS Marg, Western and Eastern Express Highways and Link Road — all leading to the northern suburbs — were jam-packed. Even the trains towards Borivli, and Virar on the Western line, Thane, Kalyan and beyond on the Central line, and those to Panvel were extremely crowded, with people hanging out dangerously. The platforms were full of people desperately waiting to board trains.
Many even entered the general compartments of long distance trains.

By 7 pm, almost all shops were shut across the city. Autorickshaws and taxis were seen parked on the road, most of them refusing hapless people who were scurrying to catch public transport to return home.

Commuters were stranded outside Thane station due to lack of buses and autorickshaws. Pic/Sameer Markande

Even fleet cabs such as Meru, Tab Cabs and Aarya Cabs, who claim to run vehicles at any given time, preferred not to ply last evening. The spokespersons for these cab companies merely claimed that it was an choice individual drivers were making.

Taxis to Pune, leaving from the domestic and international airports, and from Dadar didn’t ply. “We shut operations by 5.30 pm. This will continue even on Sunday,” said a taxi operator, who ferries passengers to Pune. Normal taxi services both prepaid and shared were brought to a halt.

Anil Tari, a driver of a private travel bus, said, “I was supposed to drive the bus to Devgad in Konkan from Parel in the evening. However, when news about Thackeray broke, we decided to keep our bus off the road. We have cancelled the tour to Devgad and have given a refund to the passengers. We do not know when the situation will return to normal to ply our buses on the road. ”

Vilas Kokate, resident of Bandra, said there was no traffic on the roads. “Taxis and other vehicles were off the road. Although the situation seemed normal, we decided to rush home.”

At the time of going to press, ATMs, cinema halls and petrol pumps in the city had shut shop too.

Stop, say Shiv Sainiks
A Panvel-bound train was halted by Sainiks at 5.40 pm. After creating a commotion for half an hour, the train was allowed to move ahead.

Meanwhile, trains were disrupted on the Harbour line. However, according to railway officials, there weren’t many passengers on the train as it was a Saturday. “There were fewer passengers because of speculations of Thackeray’s health for the past few days,” said an official from CR.

The Shiv Sena-led labour union Bhartiya Kamgar Sena switched off all the lights around the airport on Saturday evening as a mark of respect to Thackeray. Cab drivers at the airport kept their cabs off the road out of fear that their vehicles would be damaged. However, three buses were deployed by Mumbai International Airport Pvt Ltd (MIAL) to ferry travellers to various parts of the city.

Around six buses of Navi Mumbai Municipal Transport (NMMT) were partially damaged by Shiv Sainiks in Navi Mumbai on Saturday.
Consequently, the NMMT administration attempted to keep most of its buses off the road.

Pandit Tandel, traffic superintendent of NMMT, said, “Windshields of around six buses, including five Volvo buses, were broken by a furious mob. So we have decided to play a limited number of buses. After reviewing the situation on Sunday, we will decide on the number of buses to be plied.”

Traffic police have asked motorists to avoid plying through Kalanagar and taking the Western Express Highway on Sunday. Moreover, there will be diversions towards Shivaji Park and all vehicles will be made to stop at a distance.

Transport today
Both Western and Central Railway have cancelled the mega block on Sunday. If railway officials are to be believed, they have cancelled the mega block for the convenience of train commuters.

“Taxis will not ply today,” confirmed Anthony Quadros, General Secretary, Taxi Men’s Union. “After hearing the news of Thackeray’s death, more than 60 per cent taxi drivers went off the roads. I have not ordered or said anything to them. They decided to go off the road, out of fear of the Sainiks.”

BEST will operate extra buses from 7 am today to Shivaji Park from various areas throughout the city.

Stock up on veggies
Although the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) market remains closed on Sundays, APMC authorities claimed that the supply of vegetables and fruits will be reduced for the next few days as farmers are not likely to send their produce. After a low supply of vegetables for two days, APMC market had seen a good supply of vegetables yesterday. However, retailers kept their shops closed on Saturday evening. Vegetables will not be available till Monday.

Reports by Vedika Chaube, Shahshank Rao, Bipin Singh, Saurabh Katkurwar

Traffic restrictions
Since lakhs of people are expected to visit Mumbai to have the last glimpse of Thackeray, there will be some traffic restrictions today between 6 am and 11 pm

> Veer Sawarkar Road and Annie Besant Road from Mori Road to Babasaheb Worlikar Chowk will be remain closed for general traffic
> LJ Road and Gokhale Road will be remain closed
> Tilak Bridge will be remain closed from Dadar TT
> No parking will be allowed on Veer Sawarkar Road, Ranade Road, NC Kelkar Road, Kuleshkar Marg, LJ Road, Gokhale Road, Katariya Marg, Sayani Marg

Dadar silenced
Dadar, the birthplace of Shiv Sena, turned into a silent zone. Commuters were left gasping for breath on Dadar station’s platforms because of the crowd. The bus stops, too, were overcrowded as people preferred to reach home in whichever way possible. There was heavy security on the roads soon after the news broke out. Many Thackeray followers were seen outside Shiv Sena Bhavan weeping for the loss of their hero. There was a huge police bandobast outside Sena Bhavan as it is an important spot associated with Thackeray 

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