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Autos, trains, buses, cabs won't ply today: Shiv Sena

Last updated on: May 31, 2012 08:07 IST

Autos, trains, buses, cabs won't ply today: Shiv Sena

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Vrushali Lad in Mumbai

Though the city's systems are willing to go to work as usual, participating political parties will try their best to ensure a '100 per cent successful' closure on Thursday. Vrushali Lad reports

The Bharat Bandh on May 31, though in itself being seen as a show-of-strength exercise for key National Democratic Alliance parties -- the BJP, Shiv Sena and the Republic Party of India, primarily -- may knock the city off its feet if the bandh supporters disrupt Mumbai's transport system. The 'voluntary' bandh has been called in response to the steep fuel price hike as announced by the Centre last week. 

"Only (the) fire brigade, essential services like water services and hospitals will be working. If (there are) exams on May 31, we will request the university to reschedule them so students are not affected," said Sanjay Raut, Rajya Sabha MP and Shiv Sena spokesperson.

There is every likelihood, judging from the mood in the Shiv Sena and BJP camps in Mumbai, that road transport will be the most hit. Speaking to rediff.com, senior Shiv Sena leader Subhash Desai said, "This is not a political bandh at all. We have appealed to the people to voluntarily support the bandh, because the issue (of petrol price hike) is one that affects each and every citizen of the country. We are confident that the bandh will be 100 per cent successful."


Image: Sena, BJP and RPI leaders call on Mumbaikars to support Thursday's Bharat bandh
Photographs: Sahil Salvi/Rediff.com

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His confidence even brimmed over into the issue of the possible non-plying of public transport on Thursday. "Autos, trains, buses and taxis will not ply tomorrow," was his firm response when asked what the party would do if transport functioned as it normally does on other days.

Interestingly, the last time the Shiv Sena and the BJP staged a bandh in 2003 and were fined Rs 20 lakh each by the Bombay high court. "Our bandh is entirely peaceful and voluntary," a BJP functionary said. "There is no question of forcing traffic off the streets or making people down shutters. People are very angry with the price hike, and they will participate on their own," he added.

Despite statements issued earlier in which transport union heads reiterated that their people would not participate in the bandh, unions are not without misgivings. "We are willing to work, because we are not supporting the bandh," Thampi Kurien, general secretary of Mumbai Autorickshaw Men's Union, told rediff.com. "But we cannot force our men to work if there is a threat of their vehicles being damaged or pelted with stones. Even in the past, we have had to withdraw from working because public transport is always targetted first. Plus, there is never any compensation given in case of damaged incurred," he said.





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College students and office-goers will face the brunt of next to no transport, and so, some private firms have already issued leave on Thursday. "We have been told to take the day off, but we have to work over the weekend," said Trupti Mhaiskar, who is a secretary in a central Mumbai architectural firm.

"We are in the middle of finalising a deal with a production house, but we've told everybody concerned not to make the trip to our office in south Mumbai," said Jay Manhas, a film producer. "We postponed three meetings to Saturday and Sunday. Plus, I had to attend a shoot in the suburbs, but I'm staying put at home," he added.

If rail rokos are staged and road transport is targeted, early commuters will have no option but to retrace their steps home in the morning hours. "Our bank instructed us to arrive as early as possible, before all transport goes off the roads," said a teller on condition of anonymity.




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The Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport undertaking, that operates the city's bus routes, has still not decided what course of action to pursue. However, a senior official said that buses would ply as usual, with the usual precaution of putting up barricades on bus windows.

Perhaps the most worried are students appearing for their university engineering exams. Coming on the heels of several paper leaks, university students are a harassed lot. "I have a paper tomorrow, and till now, we have not received any information on whether the exam is rescheduled or not," said Ameya Kenkre (name changed), a student of IT engineering. "Of course, if there is no transport, how to reach the exam venue is a question in itself."

However, university officials had still not decided on the matter of rescheduling on Wednesday. "Exams may not be rescheduled, because very few exams are taking place on May 31," said an official.

The MHADA lottery for allocation of houses to the city's middle and lower income groups will also take place as per schedule despite the bandh. "There is absolutely no change in the programme for the lottery. It will take place at the scheduled time and place," confirmed MHADA chief PRO Vaishali Sandansingh.


Image: The BEST has still not decided if it will run city buses
Photographs: Reuters

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