Zero-violence bandh in cities

Few autos save the day

By Our Special Correspondent in Jamshedpur
  • Published 11.09.18
DRIVE THROUGH: Vehicles, though few in number, ply on Main Road overbridge in Ranchi on Monday during the six-hour nationwide bandh and (below) Congress members lift a bicycle in a symbolic gesture against spiralling fuel prices. Pictures by Manob Chowdhary and Prashant Mitra n More pictures on Metro 10

Jamshedpur: Normal life was partially affected in the steel city on Bandh Monday as none of the 60-odd private and government buses plied till late afternoon while only 4,000 of the 20,000 auto-rickshaws were available on the road for the better half of the day.

Schools remained open and attendance was almost normal as pool cars didn't stay off roads. Colleges were open too, but attendance was less in some because of commuting inconveniences.

Long-distance buses were fewer in number in the morning hours, but train services were normal. Shops and markets adopted a wait-and-watch policy and gradually opened by noon. Early shoppers may have been disappointed.

The nationwide 9am-3pm bandh against rising fuel prices, sponsored by the Congress and supported by other Opposition parties like the JVM, JMM and RJD, was overtly peaceful with no reports of arson or clashes here. Police, however, took more than 800 bandh supporters into preventive custody.

Lengthy wait

Many commuters had to wait longer than usual to find an auto on Monday. Others had to shell out more to reach their destinations in the absence of budget buses.

"Golmuri roundabout at 9am on a weekday swarms with autos. Not today though. There were fewer of them. I had to wait for over 10 minutes to find a seat in one. Most of the three-wheelers bound for Sakchi were packed to capacity," said Kusum Devi, a member of housekeeping staff at a private clinic.

Meenakshi Kumari, a student of The Graduate School College for Women, rued that cheaper buses were all off road. I had no choice but to take an auto, the fare of which is almost three times more, from Agrico to my college in Sakchi," she said.

Pleasant surprise

A section of office-goers and parents taking children to school were glad because they didn't have to negotiate weekday bottlenecks on major roads.

"I was going to drop my cousin at Tatanagar. We were worried that he would miss his train to Sambalpur if we got caught in the snarl on the bridge leading to the station. Usually, haphazard parking by autos cause the congestion. With fewer autos on the road, we were saved," said Gautam Singh, a Tata Steel employee and resident of Baridih.

Vikram Kumar, also a Tata Steel employee whose daughter is a Class VI student at Sacred Heart Convent, said he had the luxury of time to prepare for office even after dropping the kid to school in Bistupur. "Major intersections, normally swamped with vehicles during school hours, were nearly desolate with fewer autos and no buses," he said.

Operator speak

Shikshit Berozgar Mini Bus Association president Sanjay Pandey said private operators were among those worst hit by rise in fuel prices. "We had a moral obligation to express solidarity."

Upender Sharma, patron of Jamshedpur Bus Owners' Association at Sitaramdera terminus, said long-distance buses did not run in usual numbers as passengers were few.

"We had asked auto operators to be cautious while plying," said Shyam Kinkar Jha, general secretary of Shikshit Berozgar Auto Chalak Sanchalak Sangh.

VIP march

Congress state president and former Jamshedpur MP Ajoy Kumar marched from the party office around 11am with 100 supporters and courted arrest near Bistupur roundabout. The IPS officer-turned-politician had innovative slogans to highlight spiralling prices and the fall of rupee. "Girta rupaiya, mahenga tel, Modiji ka bhasan fail," chorused Congress supporters. They took a dig at police bandobast with another slogan coined by the MP, "Jab jab Raghubar darta hai, police ko aage karta hai".

JMM district president and former Ghatshila MLA Ramdas Soren was arrested near Sakchi roundabout. Several CPM and SUCI leaders were also taken into custody.

Police bandobast

East Singhbhum SSP Anoop Birtharay termed the bandh peaceful. "No private or government property was damaged anywhere. The bandh was peaceful. We took 831 into preventive custody. They were kept at the camp jail in Telco and released in the evening."