Pune observed a near-complete shutdown during the state-wide bandh called in protest against the violence during the 200th anniversary commemoration of the battle of Koregaon Bhima on Monday.
The bandh call evoked no response in the morning as people commuted to their places of work without much hindrance. But by 11 am, reports of protests, blockage of roads and sporadic incidents of stone-pelting on vehicles and shops, started trickling in. By afternoon, the city wore a deserted look with most shops and commercial establishments closed down.
Small groups of people took out bike rallies and forced shops to pull down their shutters at around noon. A few stray incidents of stone pelting on public transport buses were reported too.
The Pune Mahanagar Pariwahan Mahamandal Ltd (PMPML), the civic transport body of the Pune city, said that they stopped all the operations in the city around noon till 5 pm, as at least 12 buses were damaged by miscreants during the bandh. Officials said that the decision to resume the service will be taken after 5pm.
In Pune city, some of the largest protests were seen near Dandekar bridge, Sukhsagar Nagar near Bibvewadi, Gultekdi in Market Yard area, Ambedkar Chowk near Pune station area, in Gadital and nearby areas of Hadapsar and so on. Walking from Dandekar bridge, a large group of protestors took out a morcha till the house of Milind Ekbote, who was booked on Tuesday along with Sambhaji Bhide in a criminal case of inciting violence during the celebration of Koregaon Bhima.
Almost 90 per cent of the shops and business establishments in Pimpri Chinchwad were closed in response to Wednesday’s Maharashtra Bandh. Even hotels and small roadside eateries had downed their shutters as the day progressed. Autorickshaws and buses remained off the road, with major arterial roads wearing a deserted look. Most of the malls were also closed in the area. Tempers were frayed at Pimpri Chowk as thousands of protestors gathered there by afternoon. Stray incidents of stone pelting were reported from the area and parked cars and closed hotels became the target of the protesters. Some of the protesters even took to staging a rail roko by sitting on the tracks at Pimpri Station.
State transport bus services between Pune-Satara and Pune-Baramati were suspended in the morning and officials said that a call will be taken in the afternoon whether to resume them or not during the day. Protestors stopped the traffic on Pune-Mumbai expressway for one hour around 1.30 pm near the Urse toll booth but normalcy was restored.
Cab services were affected and drivers were either refusing to ply to affected areas where stone pelting was reported or asking people to take half-way drops. Fewer auto-rickshaws were plying on the roads, too.
While traffic remained relatively clear on most city roads, there were a lot of road diversions owing to morchas. After 1 pm, the police put up barricades at a lot of main roads and diverted traffic onto arterial roads.
Hospitals and Schools
The health services in the city were functioning normally, with hospitals seeing a slight dip in the number of patients. At KEM hospital Vadhu branch, just three kms from Koregaon Bhima where unrest sparked off incidents of violence, a team of doctors were conducting routine surgeries. AT most hospitals, services were unaffected but OPD attendance was low. The OPD attendance dropped by half at Sassoon Hospital. On Wednesday, disability certificates are issued at the state-run hospital where usually at least 120 patients turn up, but, on Wednesday, only 30-40 patients came in.
Even as most schools in the city declared a precautionary holiday on Wednesday anticipating trouble, a few schools went ahead with business as usual in the absence of any government instructions to call the day off. However, attendance was very low at the schools that were working. In some cases, students were sent back by the school authorities. Similarly, though colleges had not declared a holiday, lectures were called off since very few students came to classes.