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Since 1st March, 1999
 
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Cash & carry worry on day-I

- Autorickshaws & buses stay off roads in support of strike, several ATMs shut

Travelling on deserted streets of the city and withdrawing money from automated teller machines (ATMs) turned uphill tasks on Wednesday, the first day of the 48-hour nationwide strike of trade unions.

Most autorickshaws and city buses off streets, commuters had a harrowing time travelling from one place to another. Cycle rickshaw-pullers cashed in on the situation, charging people double the usual rate.

The fare for the 3km ride from Patna Junction to the Boring Road roundabout on a cycle rickshaw surged to Rs 80 on Wednesday. Another day, the fare would have been Rs 40.

Travel was not the only worry of people. Closed ATMs also teased them.

Mohit Kumar, an employee of a private firm on the Frazer Road, had to travel around 6km to withdraw money because all the ATMs near his workplace were closed.

I made a huge mistake by not withdrawing money from the ATM last (Tuesday) evening. I checked at least 10 ATMs near my office today (Wednesday). All of them were closed. I dont have a vehicle. I had to request a friend to drive me around the city in search of an open ATM, he said.

Mohit had to travel all the way near the Raj Bhavan, some 6km from the Frazer Road, to withdraw cash from an ATM. Why are the ATMs closed? Why should they shut them despite knowing that it is so important for people? he asked.

Despair was writ large on the faces of passengers coming out of Patna Junction and Rajendra Nagar Terminus with luggage. They had to wait hours for a transport to their destination. Most of them had to struggle to adjust themselves as well as their luggage in cycle rickshaws.

Around 11am, Ahmedabad resident Ashok Kumar Singh alighted from a train at Patna Junction with his wife and a lot of luggage.

I have come here for a family function. I am waiting for an hour now for an autorickshaw. I cannot see any. I dont know what to do now, the distressed man told The Telegraph.

Thirty minutes on, he and his wife fitted into a cycle rickshaw with their luggage.

I am going to the Boring Canal Road. He (the rickshaw puller) has asked me for Rs 120 and I had no choice but to accept. This is such an illogical fair, he said as the rickshaw pulled through.

State Bank of India employees stage a protest in front of the main branch at Gandhi Maidan on Wednesday. Picture by Nagendra Kumar Singh

Inside the station, the number of commuters was fewer than other days. But those who had come had to wait for hours.

I am waiting for a local train to Gaya for three hours now. It seems it has been stopped at some station. I have to attend a marriage ceremony there I dont think I shall not be able to reach on time, Abhisekh Singh, a resident of Patliputra waiting at the Patna Junction, said.

Officials of the East Central Railway said more than 20 local and express trains were delayed because the bandh supporters forcibly stopped them at different stations in the state. The strike enforcers had blocked tracks in the city in the morning.

The bus stand of Bihar State Road Transport Corporation at Gandhi Maidan also wore a deserted look most of the day. Few passengers came looking for a bus. I came down here to see my sister from Supaul around 3.30am on Wednesday. Now, I have to go back but there is no bus. I will try in the evening again, Hans Kumar Surana said.

Officials at the stand said buses had stopped plying from 7am.

In the heart of the city, the strike was not as painful. There was some public transport movement the Kargil Chowk and the Gandhi Maidan areas.

People driving their vehicles did not feel the pinch either. Rather, they enjoyed driving on deserted streets.