March 28, 2017

Bharat Bandh gets mixed response from India, West Bengal surprises with business-as-usual attitude

Bharat Bandh gets mixed response from India, West Bengal surprises with business-as-usual attitude

The Opposition’s call for a Bharat Bandh today to protest against the huge inconvenience caused by the government’s decision to demonetize high-value currency has so far received a mixed response from different parts of the country.  States like Bihar and Left-ruled Tripura saw widespread protests, with schools and colleges remaining shut.  On the other hand, a state like West Bengal, whose chief minister has been vociferously opposing the move, saw the call for bandh hardly getting any support from its people.

In West Bengal, Bharat Bandh did not affect business as shops remained open, and schools and colleges functioned without hassles. Train and flight movement as well as the Kolkata Metro services were not disrupted.  The call for protest against demonetization received a lukewarm response in West Bengal.  This was in contrast to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s strong pitch against the decision.  The state’s finance department has issued a circular asking employees to not skip work on Monday and Tuesday.  Only emergency situations are exempted.  Meanwhile, the ruling Trinamool Congress organised a massive protest rally in Kolkata.

Life came to a halt in Left-ruled Tripura. Government and semi-government, private offices, banks, educational institutions, shops and business establishments remained closed due to the strike. Train services were disrupted but flight movement was not disturbed.  The nation-wide shutdown evoked partial response in Telugu states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh today. Shops, business establishments and educational institutions remained closed in some areas. The services of state-owned Road Transport Corporation (RTC) remained normal. In Telangana, the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) did not participate in the shutdown. Some schools in Hyderabad declared holiday as a precautionary measure.

In Bihar, supporters and workers of the Left parties including the CPI, CPI-M, CPI(ML) and others stopped over a dozen long-route trains in Patna, Gaya, Jehanabad, Bhagalpur and Muzaffarpur railway stations. Roads were also blocked at various places across the state. The Janata Dal (United) has supported the government’s demonetization decision.

In Odisha, schools and colleges were closed over the Opposition’s call for Bharat Bandh.  In Puri, members of the Centre of India Trade Unions National Conference held a protest march.  In poll-bound Uttar Pradesh, Samajwadi Party workers took to the streets in Allahabad to protest against demonetization of high-value currency. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav had warned the government of public backlash for causing inconvenience to the poor.

In Tamil Nadu, DMK (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) workers staged a protest against the Narendra Modi-led government’s decision in Chennai. The party has been vocal in its opposition to the demonetization of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes. DMK leader MK Stalin and some workers have been taken into preventive custody by the police in Chennai.

The shutdown called by Kerala’s ruling LDF appeared to be total as only private vehicles plied, offices registered minimal attendances, and normal life was crippled.  The shutdown was called to denounce the demonetization of high value currency which has left the cooperative banks in the state in turmoil.

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