By: ML Verma
Shimla: A near total bandh was observed in Himachal Pradesh on the call given by BJP, CPI-M and five others national parties to protest against hike in fuel prices. Shops and other commercial establishments remained closed, however, government offices functioned as usual. But employee turnout was very thin in the offices and many of them were late to offices as they could not get buses to reach their work places. At most of places the bandh was so complete that even wayside dhabas and tea shops were closed. In Shimla shops and all dhabas remained closed on the Mall, Lower Bazaar, Lakkar Bazaar and other suburbs of the town, whereas HRTC and private transport vehicles too were off the road.
It’s worth mentioning here that the central government had recently ended government curbs on petroleum pricing and hiked the prices of diesel, kerosene and cooking gas. The price of diesel went up by Rs.2 a litre, kerosene by Rs 3 a litre, petrol by Rs 3.50 a litre, and cooking gas by Rs 35 per cylinder due to this.
BJP and CPIM workers were seen asking traders to close their shops and extend their support to the bandh call. Road services at many places were hit as activists squatted on roads and prevented the movement of vehicles in various parts of lower Himachal, according to reports reaching here.
BJP and CPI-M activists supported by CITU, SFI and DYFI also held processions in Shimla. According to AC Walia, station master of Summerhill railway station, protesters stopped the Kalka-Shimla passenger train at Summerhill railway station for 18 minutes, which was later allowed to run after police force successfully removed the protesters from the track.
Some protesters also deflated bus tyres near Shimla, which hampered traffic on National Highway Number-22 in the morning. According to inspector general of police (law and order) SR Mardi, “Law and order situation in these areas remained under control and no incident of violence was reported.” He claimed that elaborate security arrangements had been made to deal with the bandh call.
Hamirpur district BJP chief Des Raj Sharma, claimed that the bandh was complete and people cooperated with the party to make it a grand success. Water, electricity, medical services and ambulances were exempted from the bhandh and many chemist shops were seeing open. Most public schools in the capital town too remained closed in the wake of bandh call.