| Anna flyover on Chennai’s Mount Road on Monday. One of the busiest junctions in the city, the area is usually a beehive of people and vehicles. Telegraph picture
Chennai, Oct. 1: The DMK and its allies observed a day’s fast across Tamil Nadu after being warned by the Supreme Court not to go ahead with the bandh called to press for early implementation of the Sethusamudram project.
Chief minister M. Karunanidhi kicked off the hunger-strike in front of the Chepauk cricket stadium. He then drove to the secretariat to attend to official work after being advised against joining the modified protest because of his fragile health.
“We are fully complying with the order of the Supreme Court,” the 84-year-old said before leaving the venue of the fast presided over by DMK general secretary K. Anbazhagan. “There is no stay against any fast and normal life was not affected,” the chief minister added.
Pictures on the ground, however, told a different story as leaders of the DMK and its allies, including the Congress and the Left parties, made speeches from a quickly erected stage.
Some examples of how the confusing signals — the bandh call and its cancellation — affected life in the state.
The biggest casualty. Roads in Chennai and other cities and major towns were for most part of the day virtually deserted. State buses remained off the roads as most employees are controlled either by the LPF or Citu, trade unions affiliated to the DMK and the CPM, respectively.
It was only after the court’s warning in the morning that the administration decided to operate some buses, at least in Chennai and other big cities. “We operated 61 buses,” claimed chief secretary L.K. Tripathy in Chennai, home to over 40 lakh people.
Nearly 2,000 buses run in the city on a normal day.
More buses hit the roads after the fast ended at 5pm.
In the district towns, private mini-bus operators made a killing, fleecing commuters who had to travel. So did the small number of auto-rickshaw drivers who dared to venture out.
Southern Railway maintained minimal train services in the suburban sector.
With most state buses off the roads, vegetable, fruit and flower vendors were the worst hit as they could not make it to the wholesale market to pick up wares. So, grocers who had stocked vegetables had a field day, selling goods at high prices. Milk supply was hit in several parts of Chennai.
If there was one prominent indicator of a total bandh even after the DMK withdrew its call, it was the response of traders.
Almost all shops, barring a few eateries, tea stalls and state-run retail liquor outlets, were closed. All cinemas were also closed, though some opened for late-evening shows.
Schools and colleges across the state remained shut. Most institutions had already declared a holiday before the Supreme Court restrained the DMK and its allies from going ahead with the strike.
While central government offices in Chennai reported nearly 100 per cent attendance and banks functioned as usual, attendance in state offices was thin.
Chief secretary Tripathy, however, said the entire IAS cadre, including all department secretaries in the secretariat, reported for work.
In the private sector, several companies asked their staff to come for work. Many software firms, however, took it easy, telling employees to make up for today’s absence.
Private hospitals functioned normally, but most medicine shops downed shutters. Government hospitals in Chennai barely maintained emergency services.