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Keralites hapless, angry over yet another shutdown

By Sanu George, IANS,

Thiruvananthapuram : Monday saw yet another statewide shutdown in Kerala, India’s most literate state, and as usual educational institutions, offices, shops were all closed, leading to widespread discontentment among a cross-section of people.

The statewide shutdown was called by the Left parties and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to protest the latest hike in petrol prices. For Thiruvananthapuram residents, this was the second shutdown in three days and the 18th if all the shutdowns in various parts of the state are taken into account.

There were reports of public property being attacked and innocent people being targeted.

People who landed up at the railway stations were at the receiving end when they found there was no way they could continue their journey as, barring two-wheelers, no other mode of transport was available.

“We have been on the train for the past two days and we have to go another 20 km to reach our home. We came to attend a marriage of our close relative and now we have to remain here till 6 p.m. in the railway station because of the shutdown. Please tell us what these people who have called a shutdown gained,” said a member of an angry family of four that was waiting in the Thiruvananthapuram railway station.

This is the second statewide shutdown this year.

On Saturday, the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) had called for a district wide shutdown to protest alleged police excesses on their feeder organisations, after they burned two state government vehicles while protesting the petrol price hike Friday.

That day, 17 state-owned buses were damaged by protesters and Monday also there were reports of widespread damage to buses. At Kollam, a private bus which was taking people to attend a marriage party was attacked.

When asked about the widespread destruction of public property, CPI-M state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan evaded a direct reply and remarked that “did you not see the manner in which the police took on the protesters”.

“Look, we have no hesitation to say that we will consider even sterner steps to register our protests,” said Vijayan to reporters here Monday.

K.V. Muraleedharan, president of the Kerala Association of Travel Agents, said it is sad to say that the state becomes poorer with every shutdown.

“It is high time the government took steps to see that something is done because the sufferers include tourists and, above all, the common man,” said Muraleedharan.

Thiruvallam Bhasi, who is settled in the Australian city of Melbourne for the past one decade and edits two magazines there, said in the past when he was here, he had taken part in shutdowns, but now things appear to have gone too far.

“In Australia, in my decade there, not a single shutdown has taken place. Various forms of protests do take place, but such protests never cause inconvenience to the common man. The basic rights of the citizen are always respected and if things do not change here, then it is bad news for the state which is now looking for huge investments to resurrect the state economy,” said Bhasi, who is here on a short vacation.

(Sanu George can be contacted at [email protected])