Bus services remained paralysed on Thursday, with the employees of local and adjoining state transport undertakings joining the nationwide strike against the proposed Road Transport and Safety Bill. Due to the strike, commuters had to face severe harassment and were forced to make impromptu travel arrangements to reach their destinations.
Buses remained parked at the Sector 17 and Sector 43 ISBT depots, as passengers were left stranded.
Local commuters were especially caught off guard as the Chandigarh Transport Undertaking union workers reversed their decision on having a partial strike for two hours between 12 noon – 2 pm and proceeded ahead with an all-day strike.
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Auto-rickshaws and taxis backed out of the strike call and plied on city roads throughout the day. However, they made a fast buck from people wanting to reach their destination on time and were seen overcharging harassed passengers.
“I have to take medicines for my brother who had a kidney transplant a few days ago in PGIMER. I have been waiting at the Sector 43-ISBT hoping for the strike to get over. Running out of time, I have to now avail services of an auto-rickshaw at exorbitant charges,” said Sunil Kumar, a resident of Ludhiana.
For long-distance commuters, the experience was equally ‘miserable’. Left with no alternatives, many continued to stay at the bus depots hoping for the strike to be called off.
“I need to urgently take my niece to Talwandi Sabo as her father is suffering from a serious ailment. With no direct connectivity by rail, and since charges by taxi are expensive, commuting via bus is the only option,” said Harman Sidhu, a resident of Sector 34.
The Chandigarh Police had deployed personnel, who were equipped with anti-riot equipment at the respective ISBTs, to maintain law and order and make sure the protesters did not cause any hindrance to the general public. As a precautionary measure, a riot-control vehicle and water-canon vehicle each were also stationed.
DSP (law and order) Roshan Lal confirmed that no arrests were made while the protests occurred without any disruption to law.
At the Sector 43-ISBT, workers of the Haryana Roadways, Punjab Roadways, Himachal Road Transport Corporation and PEPSU Roadways (Patiala and East Punjab States Union) and members of the Chandigarh Government Transport Workers’ Union protested together amid heavy police security and raised objections against the proposed Road Transport and Safety Bill. Even private buses had stopped operating their services.
The main opposition of the protesters was to the government’s proposal to replace Section 304-A (death caused due to negligence) of the Indian Penal Code, a bailable act with Section 304, a non-bailable act with Rs 3-4 lakh penalty.
The scene at the Sector 17-ISBT was marginally different.
Private buses ply
Commuters in the township had a harrowing time due to the nationwide strike against the proposed Road Transport and Safety Bill, due to which bus services at the local bus stand in Phase 8 were hit.
However, some of the private buses continued to ply from the bus stand due to which many commuters from the town and from adjoining Chandigarh made a beeline to the bus stand to avail the facility.