Joys & jinxes of a 6-hour shutdown

Markets either remained closed or wore a deserted look. Snarl-magnet arteries such as Mahatma Gandhi Road, Circular Road and Kantatoli felt like freeways. Fuel bunks opened for a brief while before they called it a day. Schools, as announced, remained closed. Ranchi University was open, but witnessed thin attendance. And, so did offices.

By Our Correspondent in Ranchi
  • Published 11.09.18
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Police put up barricades to stop bandh supporters near Bistupur roundabout in Jamshedpur on Monday. Picture by Bhola Prasad

Ranchi: Markets either remained closed or wore a deserted look. Snarl-magnet arteries such as Mahatma Gandhi Road, Circular Road and Kantatoli felt like freeways. Fuel bunks opened for a brief while before they called it a day. Schools, as announced, remained closed. Ranchi University was open, but witnessed thin attendance. And, so did offices.

In short, the 9am-3pm Bharat Bandh on Monday called by the Congress against rising fuel prices and backed by other Opposition parties was nearly successful in the state capital from daily life perspective and completely unbeaten in terms of law and order management, courtesy "strict police bandobast" and "disciplined protesters".

Business holiday

Big shops and business establishments in main commercial hubs such as Main Road, Shaheed Chowk, Kutchery, Circular Road, Lalpur and Upper Bazaar remained shut during bandh hours. Small markets in Chutia, parts of Doranda, HEC Township, Dhurwa and Kadru stayed open, but customers were a trickle.

"Since morning, I have received no customer. On other days, at least four-five turn up by now," said Zeeshan Ejaz, who runs a steel almirah store on Karbala Tank Road.

Sales manager of the Bharat Petroleum outlet at Kadru Saurabh Kumar counted losses. "Every day, around 1,000 customers come here by afternoon. The number was hardly 400 today despite several fuel bunks being closed for hours," he said.

Almost all banks, post officers and government offices were open. Some branches like Yes Bank's near Ranchi University and HDFC Bank's on Circular Road functioned with shutters half-down till noon.

Troubled journeys

Dozens of bus passengers were stranded at Birsa and ITI terminuses. "I needed to go to Lohardaga, but there will be no bus till 3pm. I will catch an evening ride," said Ranjan Kumar, an entrepreneur.

Movement of trains originating from Ranchi was normal, said chief PRO of the division of South Eastern Railway Sanjay Ghosh.

Three trains coming to Ranchi were however hit, a release from South Eastern Railway said in the evening. Purnea-Hatia Express remained stranded in Samastipur division for 10 hours. The Patna-Ranchi Jansatabdi Express was detained for an hour at Jehanabad in Danapur division. And, Hatia-Puri Tapaswini Express was held up for two hours at Khurda Road division.

Closed campuses

Only those college students who had to appear for examinations or take important classes came to campuses. The Morabadi premises of Ranchi University donned a deserted look till noon.

Vice chancellor Ramesh Pandey said all classes were held. "Exams were peacefully conducted," he added.

Freedom on roads

The traffic load on city roads was reduced by more than half as all the 300 school buses and 2,500 out of 3,000 diesel autos remained off roads. Motorists and bikers, for once, had a brisk ride during peak hours on a weekday.

"It was pure bliss driving down Main Road. The half-a-kilometre stretch between Daily Market and Albert Ekka Chowk takes at least 20 minutes to cover on any given day. Today, I whizzed along in two minutes," said Hesag resident Sanjay Kumar.

Look who made hay

e-Rickshaw drivers had a field day with most diesel and petrol autos expressing solidarity with the bandh cause.

"I had no time to rest. I could have charged anything and people would have paid, but my conscience did not allow that," said Shakil, an e-rickshaw driver in Hindpiri.

Police bandobast

Till 2pm, as many as 650 bandh supporters were taken into preventive custody. Some of them were kept at local police stations and others sent to the camp jail at Birsa Munda Football Stadium in Morabadi.

SSP Anish Gupta said the bandh was peaceful. "Strategic police deployment did not give bandh enforcers any opportunity to disturb anyone," he said.

Sources in police, however, said the protesters were largely disciplined and did not resort to violence anywhere in the capital or its suburbs.