|Sambalpur wears a deserted look on Monday. Telegraph picture
Bhubaneswar, Aug. 26: Already reeling from the impact of an agitation by lawyers, the people of western Odisha found their miseries multiplied today as a dawn-to-dusk strike called in support of a separate Koshal state paralysed life in the region.
With public transport keeping off the road and even petrol pumps downing shutters, the strike called by the Koshal State Coordination Committee hit commuters the most.
Rabi Narayana Naik, a bank employee in Sambalpur, missed office as neither buses nor autorickshaws plied in the town. “Once I thought of taking out my motorcycle, but then its fuel tank was empty and no petrol station in the town was open,” said Naik.
Homemaker Shantisnigdha Mohanty, who was supposed to reach Bhubaneswar from Sambalpur today, had a similar grouse. She missed her train as she failed to reach the station in time.
“I was to catch the Rourkela- Bhubaneswar Intercity Express today. But I did not get an autorickshaw to the station. By the time I reached there on a friend’s two-wheeler, the train had left,” she said.
People in Balangir, Sonepur, Kalahandi, Nuapada and Bargarh faced similar problems with strike supporters forcing the closure of business establishments, schools and colleges. The impact of the shutdown was more pronounced in urban areas compared to the rural pockets where small shops remained open and road transport, too, was not much affected.
In Sambalpur town, however, public transport was completely paralysed with only a few two-wheelers and bicycles seen on the roads. Educational institutions, banks, business establishment and offices in the town remained closed.
The strike supporters also staged a rail roko and stopped the Sambalpur-Puri Intercity Express for around half an hour at Khetrajpur railway station in Sambalpur.
Arguing in support of the demand, Pramod Mishra, chairman, central advisory committee of the Koshal Kranti Dal, one of the main proponents of today’s strike, said: “We have been forcibly attached to coastal Odisha though our language and culture are completely different. We are also victims of regional imbalance.”
He described today’s shutdown as total and spontaneous.
Sambalpur district president of the Koshal Kranti Dal, Upendra Mohapatra, said: “This region has been lying neglected for a long time. A separate state is the only solution to the problem.”