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Most shutters stay down...

...but for strikers, it is business as usual

Bhubaneswar, Feb. 21: Day Two of the 48-hour bandh called by the 11 trade unions across the country was no different from the first with traffic and train services being disrupted at many places here today.

Buses, taxis and other passenger vehicles did not ply and markets remained closed as protesters picketed bus and taxi stands and a few business establishments.

They also trooped into the Bhubaneswar railway station, squatted on the tracks and stopped trains. Some of them went on the rampage, damaging private vehicles and burning tyres to block roads.

Essential items

Residents found it difficult to find essential commodities, while employees of private companies and those staying at private hostels had trouble finding food and other items.

People had a hard day, as they could neither get vegetables nor groceries. They could not even buy fish or meat as these shops were also closed everywhere.

“I had last brought vegetables on Tuesday. The stock got over today and when I went to the nearby market only one shop was open. The vendor demanded an exorbitant rate for vegetables. I had no option but to buy some to sustain my family for the day,” said Batakrushna Rout, a central government employee.

Shops in the central part of the city remained close. Though some business establishments and private banks were open in the first half, protesters picketed in front of these buildings forcing the authorities to down their shutters.

All the petrol pumps here were closed today forcing the owners to lose a whopping Rs 3.5 crore.

But many illegal petrol sellers made hay while the sun shone and sold petrol and diesel at Rs 200 per litre. Though these were adulterated, people were forced to buy it.

“Though the rate was three times higher, I saw many people buying fuel from these illegal sellers. Even police personnel keeping guard nearby had nothing to say to them,” said Kiran Behera, a student.

Public transport

For the second day, government, private and city buses did not ply here.

In the morning, people were seen waiting at the Baramunda bus stand and railway station. But bus operators complained that the low turnout of passengers had forced them not to take their vehicles out of the bus stand. “We tried to run the buses, but there were just a few passengers who had come to the bus stop. So, we had to stop the services. Night transportation is going on as usual,” said general secretary of the bus owners’ association Debendra Sahu.

Autorickshaws also stayed off the road, as they had joined hands with the bandh supporters. Only a handful of autorickshaws were seen plying from Capital Hospital and other places in the city, but they were charging exorbitant fares from commuters, who had no option but to pay up.

Train services

Train services were disrupted by protesters blocking tracks at many places including Bhubaneswar, besides at Cuttack, Balasore, Khurda Road, Berhampur and Sambalpur, railway sources said.

Sixteen express trains and eight passenger trains were controlled at various stations.

Several trains, including the Bhubaneswar-New Delhi Rajdhani Express and Bhubaneswar-Secunderabad Visakha Express were detained at the Bhubaneswar railway station. Four passenger trains were cancelled today, much to the disgust of travellers.

“An autorickshaw operator asked for Rs 300 to take me to Baramunda from Master Canteen Square. I preferred to walk to my house and then took a lift. Luckily, the motorcyclist did not charge me,” said Pradip Mishra, who works in Bangalore and reached Bhubaneswar last night. He had to spend the night at the station.

Schools & colleges

Schools and colleges reported low attendance, as most parents did not want to let their wards travel in school buses fearing attacks by protesters. Those staying near their educational institutions were seen walking to the colleges or schools. Some school and college authorities had to even postpone examinations scheduled for today.

CMAT turnout

For the CMAT exams scheduled for today, about 60 per cent of the students turned up. In the first sitting, 65 out of 100 students turned up for the tests. For the second sitting, 60 out of 100 students turned up.

“Considering it was a bandh, the strength, we would say, was quite good. We feared there would not be even half the students. But most of them had reached the city couple of days in advance,” said Sunita Patra of the RCM College, the venue for CMAT exams.

Outside Assembly

Around 50 trade union activists raising slogans tried to enter the Assembly breaking the police barricade. The Assembly’s budget session is on.

The bandh supporters, who started their rally from Jayadev Vihar, broke the barricade near Keshari Talkies and another one near Rabindra Mandap.

However, before they could enter into the Assembly, they clashed with the security guards and were taken into police custody. More than 200 protesters were arrested from different parts of the city.

“After the attempt to enter the Assembly, the police took all the protesters into preventive custody. They were latter let off,” said a senior police officer.

A few arrests were also made from Rourkela, Balasore, Berhampur, Cuttack and Sambalpur.