Public transport vehicles, including state-owned KSRTC buses, are off the roads in Kerala on Wednesday in support of a dawn-to-dusk motor strike called by various trade unions to protest the frequent increase in fuel prices. With the state assembly in session, at least two ministers– T P Ramakrishnan and K T Jaleel walked to the House instead of arriving in their official cars.
In most places autorickshaws and taxis stayed off the roads causing hardships to office-goers and people arriving at railway stations across the state. In Thampanoor railway station at Thiruvananthapuram, rail commuters were seen waiting for hours for vehicles.
Arrangements were made by police to transport patients and bystanders in police vehicles to Regional Cancer centre here and other hospitals. A woman, who came with a small child from Tamil Nadu, said she was waiting for nearly an hour at the railway station to take her to a private hospital at Thiruvananthapuram. Many of the universities have postponed their exams scheduled for on Wednesday in view of the hartal. However, the state Public Service Commission will be conducting its examination and interview for various posts as scheduled.
Private buses were completely off the roads in Kochi, the state’s commercial hub, causing inconvenience to the common man.Autorickshaws also kept away. In Kozhikode, though Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) operated few services in the morning, later it was stopped. The 6 am-6 pm strike has been called by trade unions owing allegiance to both the ruling CPI(M) led LDF and Congress-headed UDF besides motor vehicles owners associations.
The Bhartiya Mazdoor sangh is not participating in the protest. According to K K Divakaran, convener of the joint action council, the steep increase in the fuel price is due to the free hand given by the Centre to oil companies to fix the price. Though the crude oil prices in the international market have slumped, the Centre was not taking steps to bring down the prices, he alleged.