BENGALURU: Normal llife was thrown out of gear in the state during the Bharat Bandh on Monday. The bandh, between 9am and 3pm, was called by the Congress to protest the spiralling prices of petroleum products and supported by its allies in various states, including the JD(S), its coalition partner in Karnataka. It was largely peaceful, barring stray incidents of clashes in some coastal districts.
Public transport was severely hit as all the four road transport corporations withdrew the bus services.
In Bengaluru, the response was mixed. Though the early part of the day saw establishments closed, shops started opening as the day progressed towards afternoon. Buses operated by BMTC as well as KSRTC were off the roads while only a few autorickshaws and taxis were seen plying. Namma Metro functioned normally without stoppage through the bandh duration.
Several companies had their employees logging in from home.
In Kalaburagi, Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge participated in a protest demonstration. In Hassan, shops and commercial hubs were closed. In Mysuru, the famed palace received almost no visitors as public transport was not available.
BJP state chief B S Yeddyurappa condemned the shutdown and called it a conspiracy by the coalition government of the Congress and JD(S) for forcibly making the bandh successful.
6 injured in Udupi clash
A clash between Congress and BJP workers in Udupi city injured six people, including one Congress and two BJP councillors. Trouble broke out when over 100 Congress workers who were staging a rally near the SP’s office in Bannanje asked some shopkeepers to down shutters while the BJP workers objected to it. When things went out of control, the police resorted to lathicharge.
Monday’s Bharat Bandh, called for by the Congress, recived a mixed response in the city with several shops choosing to ignore the call. Only the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) chose to keep its buses off the road since morning, an expected move as the employees union had supported the Bandh call. Taxis and autorickshaws however, took up the slack and could be seen busily plying around the city in the daytime.
Called as a protest against the recent surge in fuel prices, the bandh saw several demonstrations across the city — the largest being one held by the Congress at Mysuru Bank circle. However, it did not stop business for many as several offices including companies in the IT and ITeS space continued to work by allowing their employees to work from home.
By evening, the situation was back to normal with BMTC starting their bus services around 4 pm and the city’s normal weekday traffic making its return. “It took me just 20 minutes to travel from Basavanagudi to Manyata Tech Park in the morning but took me an hour to return because of the traffic,” said Ashish Parthasarathi, a marketing professional.
According to Sudhakar S Shetty, President of the Federation of Karnataka Chambers of Commerce and Industry, the bandh resulted in a loss of around `160 crore to the state government in the form of taxes and an additional `30.6 crore in revenue from the sale of fuel. “The state government has recently hiked the tax on petrol and diesel by 2% in the budget which needs to be rolled back,” he said in a statement adding that the Central Government should also lower the central excise duty on fuels.
The Bangalore Chamber of Industry and Commerce (BCIC) said that the fuel price surge in recent weeks showed that it was the right time to bring petroleum products under the ambit of the Goods and Services Tax (GST). “Since it is well within the executive powers, the GST Council, should bring petroleum products under the ambit of GST. This is the only way out to offset the ever increasing prices of petrol and diesel,” said Kishore Alva, President of BCIC.
While the bandh had the support of many in the city, there was also a sense of frustration with being told not to work. “The fuel price hike has made it tough for us to earn a decent living. What is the point of shutting down work for a day. I chose to work today as I need to earn my livelihood,” said Ramesh R, who runs a snacks counter in Banaswadi.