The Bharat Bandh called by the NDA on Thursday to protest against the steep increase in petrol prices evoked a good response in many parts of Mumbai with people choosing to stay at home as auto and taxi services were crippled and shops and other businesses remained closed.
Attendance in government and private offices was hit even though suburban railway and BEST bus services remained largely unaffected despite protesters hurling stones at buses.
Several political leaders,who joined the protests,were detained. BJP state president Sudhir Mungantiwar,former BJP MP Kirit Somaiya,BJP Mumbai president Raj Purohit and BJP MLA from Mulund Sardar Tara Singh were detained in Mulund. Former MP and Republican Party of India (RPI) chief Ramdas Athavale and his followers were detained from Kherwadi in Bandra (East) for allegedly halting traffic. All these leaders were let off in the evening.
Officials of BEST undertaking said of the 3,900 buses that ferry passengers daily,87 per cent plied on Thursday. They said there was 93 per cent attendance of BEST employees on Thursday morning,which fell to 87 per cent as the shift changed.
Sharad Rao,general secretary of the BEST Workers Union,said: Of the buses that were plying,stones were thrown at 116 and three drivers were injured. However,none of the passengers were hurt. Most of the attacks took place between 9:30 am and 12 pm. He added the airconditioned fleet of BEST buses did not ply on Thursday.
Autorickshaw union leader Thampi Kurien said 50 per cent of autos stayed off the roads.
Mumbai Taximen Union head Anthony Quadros said only 20-30 per cent of taxis were on the roads. Most of the drivers live in the suburbs and decided against venturing out, he said.
Civic officials confirmed that services at municipal hospitals,dispensaries and health posts remained unaffected since strict warnings had been sent to medical and paramedical staff on Wednesday to remain present on Thursday. Additional Municipal Commissioner Manisha Mhaiskar (public health) said there was no deviation from the usual attendance across BMCs three major and 17 peripheral hospitals.
However,attendance at various BMC offices was way below normal,with the average attendance across all ward offices,head office and other municipal offices being 75.73 per cent. Interestingly,the G North ward office comprising Sena-dominated areas of Dadar and Shivaji Park saw 74 per cent attendance,while the nearby G South ward office (Prabhadevi,Worli) saw 99.64 per cent of its staff reporting to work. The solid waste management department saw 88.14 per cent attendance.
The Mumbai Police swung into action early in the day and 139 people were arrested till Thursday evening and charged under various offences ranging from rioting to vandalising property. As many as 44 cases were registered in various parts of the city by Thursday evening.
DCP (Detection) Nisar Tamboli,the spokesperson for the Mumbai Police,said they took preventive action against 2,273 people on Wednesday. To avoid law and order problems,we had taken preventive action. There were stray incidents of violence in the city on Thursday. Areas like Worli,Dadar,Kherwadi in Bandra (East),Pant Nagar,Sion,Chembur,Mulund and Malad saw protests,some of which were violent. We moved in and ensured there were no problems, he said.
Tamboli said protesters threw stones at 101 vehicles,including BEST buses. There were road blocks in four areas and a rail roko at Sion. Three incidents of a private vehicle being damaged were reported.
Apart from 15,000 personnel from local police stations,additional staff from the Local Arms unit were pressed into service. As many as 3,200 additional personnel from the Local Arms unit were deployed. We also had 25 State Reserve Police Force platoons,three Rapid Action Force companies and three Riot Control Platoons, he said.
While most of the schools and colleges remained closed in view of the bandh,MU managed to conduct its engineering exam successfully. Nearly 24,000 students of diploma in educational management,first and third-year engineering appeared for exams at 117 centres across the city. Those who reached late were given extra time.
We had instructed all exam centres to allow students to take the exams even if they reach late and also provide extra time to them. We have not received any complaint from students that they could not reach the exam centre or missed the exam. The exams went off smoothly at all centres, said the spokesperson of MU. However,students complained they found it difficult to reach exam centres.