KOCHI: At a time when the city is limping back to normal from the aftermath of the flood, the hartal held on Monday against the petrol price hike threw the life of Kochiites out of gear. Sadly, this also hit the functioning of the Disaster Management Department.
Although the officers were present in the department, the work was affected. The Thrikkakara Municipality Community Hall, which is the hub of all flood relief activities, witnessed relief materials stacked up on the compound with few people to attend. This is despite the fact that Deputy Collector (Disaster Management) Sheela Devi claiming that all was well.
“We had requested the District Collector to facilitate the free flow of materials during the hartal. As we have enough employees and volunteers, we will be able to supply them sans hiccups,” she said.
With Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) joining the protest, people who got down at various railway stations and bus stands in the city were stranded. “We are hearing about this for the first time. This is completely inhumane. We are coming all the way from Germany hearing great things about Kerala. But, this is really frustrating,” said Michael, a German tourist who was en route to Thrissur. He got stuck at Ernakulam Junction Railway Station.“We have to no other option but to wait. We have just two days here and the strike has stolen a valuable day from us,” added Michael.
Kamalaakaran, hailing from Cherthala who got down from Poorna Express with his ailing wife, was in utter distress to find that even the available vehicle owners are being disallowed to help. “We have been standing here for last few hours. I am yet to figure out a way to reach home. I really don’t know how this hartal will impact on price hike,” he said.
Despite getting the special notification from the Collector to attend the office on Hartal day, most of the departments were left with few employees. Departments like Revenue, Motor Vehicles, Disaster Management saw a better number of employees in comparison with others.
“The District Collector issuing the notification directing everyone to attend work on every hartal day is a norm. But, how will they reach here without any means of transportation,” said an official of the Collectorate.
“Officers might not have any explicit bias towards the strike. The lack of transportation is the only reason behind their absence,” said Joji P Jose, Regional Transport Officer, Ernakulam. The work was clearly hit.
Assistant Motor Vehicle Inspector Benny Varghese said, “Though we finding it difficult to depute our officers to every part of the city, we are managing with the available officers.”
Life as usual at IT hub
Amidst the blanket shutdown of shops and other emergency services, the IT hub of Kochi spent its day as usual. Almost every company situated in both Infopark and Smart City worked on schedule. “Despite having trouble commuting, none of us have skipped our working day,” said an Infopark employee. Anantharaman, an employee of Smart City said, “Like always, most of the employees are present here and we are happy with the facilities provided by the management,” he added.