BHUBANESWAR: The ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in Odisha turned its five-hour hartal over fuel prices rise into a forced lockdown on Monday as party workers harried commuters and damaged vehicles at many places. Normal life was hit in Bhubaneswar and many parts of the state as a result of the shutdown, which was to be peaceful and voluntary.
In Bhubaneswar, cane-wielding ruling party supporters stopped ambulances carrying patients at CRPF Square, Palasuni Square and Baramunda while a woman was stopped and harassed at Delta Square.
In a separate incident, a woman journalist was meted out similar behaviour.
Buses, auto-rickshaws and private vehicles were not allowed to ply at major intersections in the city like Rasulgarh, Jaydev Vihar, Baramunda, Nalco Square, Master Canteen, Dhauli, Hanspal.
Ruling party workers also clashed with BJP supporters in front of Raj Bhavan where the latter were staging a demonstration demanding a farm loan waiver.
While the BJD had announced that the five-hour hartal would be peaceful and voluntary, the chief minister's office issued an advisory in the morning asking schools and colleges to shut down, making it amply clear that the government was behind the party's agitation. "Schools and colleges should be closed in view of the hartal and examinations should be rescheduled to a later date so as to prevent any inconvenience to students," the CMO advisory said.
The actions of BJD workers was strongly condemned by the BJP and Congress. Describing it as a government-sponsored bandh, senior BJP leader Sajjan Sharma said students of many schools and colleges faced great inconvenience as there was confusion whether the educational institutions were closed or open.
Sharma alleged that BJD workers spread terror at many places and threatened common people.
The state Congress in a tweet described the behaviour of BJD workers as unfortunate and said all essential and emergency services like hospitals and ambulance services should have been excluded from the hartal -- as announced by ruling party leaders.
Reports said unruly bandh enforcers barged into the offices of the Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL) and went on a rampage. Many office-goers were prevented from reaching their destinations and a couple of women were stopped near a college in Bhubaneswar. Protestors burnt tyres at all major intersections in the city and went out with their sticks to force shopkeepers to shut down. In some localities, they dispersed after it started raining.
Petrol pumps in Bhubaneswar stayed closed till noon. While buses and auto-rickshaws were not allowed on the roads in the city, train services were mostly unaffected. Many people had to shell out more money to board auto-rickshaws which were eventually stopped by the protestors.