Near-total Bharat Bandh in Kerala as LDF, UDF team up to protest against fuel hike
The call for a ‘Bharat Bandh’ by the Congress party and backed by Opposition parties including the CPM against rising fuel prices has resulted in a near-complete suspension of public transport in Kerala.
In a rare occasion, the ruling LDF and the Opposition UDF in the state have taken to the streets protesting against the Centre’s fuel policy that has resulted in an almost-daily hike of petrol and diesel prices. Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala rode a bullock cart in the heart of Kochi along with Ernakulam MLA Hybi Eden and local MP KV Thomas near the Congress party office in the city. In Thiruvananthapuram, former chief minister Oommen Chandy walked, backing the call for a national strike. In various places, local units of the CPM, CPI, Indian Union Muslim League and the Kerala Congress (M) held demonstrations on the streets.
In the state’s financial hub Kochi, roads through the heart of the city witnessed no major traffic jams at all as private buses, state transport buses and autorickshaws stayed off the streets in accordance with the directions of the major trade unions such as CITU and INTUC. However, online cabs linked to Uber and Ola continued services and so did the Kochi Metro. The Metro trains, that run from Aluva to the heart of Kochi, came as a big relief to those who had to commute in the city. Shops. government offices, private establishments, firms, schools and colleges remained shut in Ernakulam and most other districts. Hospitals and essential services were kept out of the bandh. Commuters arriving by trains and buses into the state were the most affected.
In the state capital, the police ran buses ferrying stranded commuters from the railway station at Thampanoor to important destinations like the Medical College and the Regional Cancer Centre.
There has been considerable debate about observing the strike at a time when Kerala continues to reel from the after-effects of the worst floods to hit the state in a century. While flood waters have largely receded from all parts of the state, rehabilitation and rebuilding efforts are in progress. Both the LDF and the UDF have promised that in no way will these rehabilitation efforts be affected by the call for the strike.
with the Express Morning Briefing