By S Suchithra
Mumbai: The nationwide strike or Bharat Bandh called by some 18 parties opposed to the Narendra Modi government had no impact in Maharashtra, especially in the country’s financial hub, Mumbai. Shops, transport, banks, government offices and departments among others, continued to work as usual despite some apprehension among city dwellers over what was supposed to be a countrywide shutdown.
Reports from other parts of India indicated, the Bharat Bandh had flopped miserably. The Narendra Modi-led Union government holds majority in the Lok Sabha and hence the strike will not have any impact on its stability. Some 93 percent of Indians have supported the demonetization and people who held the now banned Rs. 500 and Rs 1,000 notes have already deposited them at banks or exchanged them for other valid currency notes.
In other parts of India however, the brunt of the shutdown was felt in varying degrees. In the southern state Kerala, the shutdown called by Kerala’s ruling LDF appeared to be total as government offices remained partially opened. State government transport services were muted and only private vehicles plied. Normal life had come to a standstill. While the leading national opposition parties called for a nationwide protest the aftermath of the demonetization.
The shutdown was called to protest against demonetization of high value currency. Several cooperative banks that flourish in Kerala are in doldrums post demonetization. The Kerala government is also miffed that on November 10, the Union government blocked cooperative banks in Kerala from accepting Rs.500 and Rs.1,000 currency notes in a bid to thwart laundering of money through institutions that were prone to flouting of rules for such exchange. The Kerala assembly in a special session on Tuesday passed a resolution against the Centre for “sidelining cooperative banks” with only BJP legislator O. Rajagopal opposing the move. Kerala has some 1,600 primary cooperative banks attached to 14 district banks which hold a combined Rs 1.27 lakh crore worth cash deposits.
The Pinarayi Vijayan-led government had called the strike to protest the “rash” behaviour of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has declined to meet an all-party delegation from Kerala
Congress had distanced itself from the shutdown due to fears it would further encumber citizens already stressed by non availability of small denomination notes and closure of banks combined with erratic function of ATMs.
Pro-BJP politicians in Kerala have however termed the role of Vijayan as suspicious. They pointed out, the CM had declared his personal assets to be valued at around Rs 1 crore while much more was held in benami accounts and properties. Vijayan had pegged his liabilities at around Rs 8 lakhs.
In New Delhi, leaders of opposition parties staged a protest against the demonetization near Mahatma Gandhi’s statue in Parliament House complex while both the houses witnessed pandemonium over the issue. Leaders from the Congress, Communist Party of India-Marxist, Communist Party of India, the DMK and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) protested outside Parliament participated in the protest led by Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi.
Elsewhere in India, life also came to standstill in the north-eastern state Tripura due to a Left Front sponsored 12-hour shutdown. The dawn-to-dusk strike was called by the Communist Party of India-Marxist led Left Front as part of the Left parties’ all India agitation against the demonetization of Rs 500 and 1,000 currency notes. Government and semi-government, private offices, banks, educational institutions, shops and business establishments were remained closed due to the strike. All types of vehicles, except security forces, remained off the roads. Air services were not disrupted though protestors blocked trains and state-owned vehicles from plying.
Andhra Pradesh and Telangana witnessed a partial response to the strike. Shops, business establishments and educational institutions remained closed in some areas while there was not much impact elsewhere. State-owned transport buses operated as usual.
Activists of Communist Party of India (CPI), Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), Congress and YSR Congress Party staged sit-in at RTC depots. However, the employees union stayed away from the shutdown. Main opposition YSR Congress and Congress clarified that they have not called for ‘Bharat Bandh’ but were only participating in protests against the people’s sufferings due to demonetization of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes. The Left parties had exempted banks from the strike call.
The impact of the shutdown was felt to some extent in Bihar where protestors halted trains plying within the state and on trunk routes. Supporters and workers of the Left parties including the CPI, CPI-M, CPI(ML) and other parties stopped over a dozen long route trains at Patna, Gaya, Jehanabad, Bhagalpur and Muzaffarpur railway stations.
Opposition parties, including those aligned to the Left, staged token protests in Goa against the demonetization.
The parties which participated in the Jan Aakrosh Diwas protests included the Congress, Nationalist Congress Party, Aam Aadmi Party and the Communist Party of India-Marxist. “Demonetization may be a good move but the manner in which it was implemented has caused tremendous hardship to common people,” Nationalist Congress Party chief Jose Philip D’Souza said.
Congress state President Luizinho Faleiro said that with no new lower denomination currency in ATMs and banks, the common man was facing tremendous hardship. The Congress held a dharna near the Panaji Main branch of the State Bank of India.
With film personalities, writers, musicians, sportspersons, and other eminent persons matching steps, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee led a massive rally here to protest the union government’s demonetization initiative.
Middle-class housewives, youths, industrial workers and common people from all other strata of the society joined the civil society and professionals like lawyers, doctors and others in the rally as Trinamool Congress chief Banerjee herself raised slogans against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government.
Taking a hand-held mike, Banerjee, draped in her usual white cotton saree, shouted “Narendra Modi hai hai, Modi Sarkar hai hai” and “Tanashahi nehi cholegal” as those rallying did a loud encore. Throughout the 2.8-km march that saw mammoth crowds lining up both sides of the roads, Banerjee responded to the people’s greetings with “namaskar” and egged on the participants.
Ministers and senior Trinamool leaders all took part in the march that began from College Street at noon and culminated at Dorina Crossing an hour later. Matinee idols Dev and Soham, filmmaker Arindam Sil, other leading figures of the Bengali cine world, painters, singers Indranil Sen, Parikshit Bala, Gautam Ghosh, football stars and theatre personalities participated in the march.
It was part of the serial protests organized by the Trinamool against the Modi government’s decision to scrap Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes, ostensibly to curb black money and terrorist funding. Adding colour to the rally were a number of innovative tableaux, banners, placards and posters decrying demonetization and underscoring its harmful impact on the people.
With inputs from agencies