Opposition-led shutdown affects life in Kerala

February 19th, 2008 - 11:16 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of ISRO

Thiruvananthapuram, Feb 19 (IANS) Most shops and businesses in Kerala were closed and public transport remained off roads Tuesday as the state observed a 12-hour dawn-to-dusk shutdown that turned violent at many places. The opposition United Democratic Front (UDF), led by the Congress, had called for the shutdown on the eve of the state assembly’s budget session to protest price-rise among other demands.

All educational institutions were closed and thin attendance was reported in government and private offices due to the lack of public transport. Minor

It was peaceful in the morning but during the day, some angry UDF supporters barged into banks, post offices and shops, which were open at several places, and forcibly downed the shutters, according to officials.

In the capital city, a tourist cab taking a foreign couple was stopped and the driver assaulted by an irate mob. The couple was not harmed, the police said though they could not give the nationality or the names of the tourists.

At several places mobs stoned buses that were plying and also attacked motorcycle and scooter riders who had ventured out.

People at major bus stands and railway stations were held up for hours. However, the Technopark here, which houses major IT firm, was functioning and a Techopark official told IANS, “Employees came to work with police providing security”.

Staff buses of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) also operated with armed security men escorting them.

The UDF called the shutdown, saying its repeated requests to Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan for an all-party meeting to discuss “burning issues concerning people” have been ignored.

The strike, the opposition said, was to highlight problems caused by rising prices of essential commodities, and demands like continuing the health insurance scheme for the poor and early implementation of the central government’s old age pension scheme.

UDF leaders have been justifying the shutdown, saying that when they were in power during 2001-06, Left parties had called 22 strikes for various reasons.

UDF convenor P.P. Thankachen told reporters that it was not true to say that the shutdown was violent.

“We had given clear instructions to our workers to maintain calm. At some places it was the police who played spoilsport and clashed with our cadres for no reason. We have reports that some vested interests tried to create problems to defame us,” said Thankachen.

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