India’s technology capital shut down on Friday, as hundreds of IT firms, back offices and multinationals logged out to protest Karnataka releasing Cauvery river water to Tamil Nadu on the Supreme Court’s order. Global software firms and many start-ups declared holiday for thousands of techies in support of the shutdown, which crippled normal life across the state, as buses, cabs and autos stayed off roads and hotels, pubs, shops and banks remained closed.
“We have declared holiday for our employees due to the shutdown and will work on the next weekend to make up for the loss,” an Infosys spokesperson told IANS.
A Wipro spokesperson also said the company was closed on Friday but would work on Saturday, which is normally an off day.
“About 500 Indian and overseas IT firms have closed for the day in support of the shutdown and due to the absence of public/private transport,” said an official of the Electronics City Industrial Township Authority.
Though the shutdown has not affected train and flight operations, hundreds of passengers who alighted at the city railway station and the international airport in the early hours were stranded in the absence of buses and cabs.
“It is unfortunate Bengaluru is facing many shutdowns over some or other issue. This is the second time in a week after a strike by trade unions on September 2 and fifth this year since January,” lamented S.N. Murthy, a techie with a leading IT firm.
Many passengers who had to board trains or flights during the day rushed to railway stations and airport in wee hours before the 12-hour shutdown began at 6 a.m.
State-run Bengaluru metro rail corporation, which operates on the east-west corridor, also suspended its service till late evening.
“We have been caught unaware by the shutdown and are stranded at the city railway station since morning in the absence of buses, taxis and autos to reach home,” said a passenger who alighted from an express train from Pune with his family.
The state government declared holiday for all schools and colleges across the state to avoid inconvenience to students and teachers in the absence of transport.
Similarly, factories, offices, banks, markets, shops, malls, hotels, eateries, pubs, bars, theatres and petrol bunks have closed in support of the shutdown.
“The state-wide shutdown is in protest against the Supreme Court’s order and to express resentment over the state government releasing the Cauvery water when we don’t have it for drinking and irrigation,” said Okkuta president Vatal Nagaraj here.
Bowing to the Supreme Court Monday order, the state began releasing daily 15,000 cusecs from early Wednesday from Krishna Raja Sagar (KRS) and Kabini reservoirs across the river basin for 10 days amid protests and demonstrations by farmers, traders and youth in the Mysuru region.
Deploying additional police personnel, the state government has tightened security, stepped up vigil and intensified patrolling to maintain peace and law and order.
Hundreds of people, including farmers, traders, students and women staged massive demonstrations and took out rallies in Bengaluru, Mandya, Mysuru and other cities and towns across the state in protest against the state government, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa and the Supreme Court.
About 5,000 people, including Kannada film stars, producers and directors marched in a procession from Town Hall to Freedom Park in Bengaluru and addressed a huge gathering, urging the state government to stop releasing water to Tamil Nadu and instead supply for irrigation farms in the Mysuru region.
Though the shutdown has been peaceful so far, angry protesters burnt tyres in the centre of roads and highways to prevent movement of even private vehicles.
Mock funerals of state Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and Jayalalithaa were conducted in Bengaluru, Mandya, Davangere and Tumakuru.
Posters and placards carrying pictures of Siddaramaiah and Jayalalithaa were garlanded and slapped with footwear and carried on donkeys to express anger.
Effigies of Siddaramaiah, Jayalalithaa and Karnataka’s Water Resources Minister M.B. Patil were also burnt at several places by activists of the pro-Kannada Rakshana Vedike (Protection Forum of local people).
“We will give our blood but not Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu. How can the state government release our water to grow crops in the neighbouring state when we don’t have enough of it for drinking this year,” said Vedike activist Pravin Shetty.