KOCHI: The Sabarimala Karma Samithi’s dawn-to-dusk hartal on Saturday in protest against the arrest of Hindu Aikya Vedi chief K P Sasikala evoked a mixed response in the district. Barring isolated incidents of vehicles being blocked, the hartal passed off peacefully, police said. The hartal supporters took out marches to the offices of the City Police Commissioner(CP) and Rural SP, Aluva.
“We had directed our people to observe the hartal in a peaceful manner and stage ‘namajapa processions’ in all major towns in the district,” said S J R Kumar, Sabarimala Karma Samiti general convener. Initially, private and KSRTC buses were out on the roads as usual, with several shops and petrol stations too functioning since the hartal call was given late on Friday evening. But once the news of the shutdown broke, the buses stopped service and the trading establishments downed shutters. A few hotels and eateries stayed open, nonetheless.
KSRTC operated a special service to Pampa in the morning with police escort and the public transporter restored all services by 5.30 pm. The City police launched a special service to help the commuters stuck at bus stands and railway stations.
Kochi Metro operated its services as usual. Expectedly, there was heavy ridership since no other public transport was available. Though attendance was thin at government offices, including the Civil Station at Kakkanad, the offices functioned normally. Majority of educational institutions declared a holiday on account of the shutdown. Despite the hartal, the private vehicles were out in force.
The Sabarimala pilgrims from neighbouring states, though, were caught off-guard, with hotels and fuel outlets remaining closed. The State Water Transport Department (SWTD) operated boat services to Goshree islands and Kakkanad though there were very few passengers.