Mumbai: Road transport services were affected and most of the shops remained closed in Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra on Monday in the wake of the statewide bandh called by three partners in the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government to protest the killing of four farmers in Uttar Pradesh's Lakhimpur Kheri district.
Leaders of three ruling parties - Shiv Sena, Congress and NCP - staged protests against the Lakhimpur Kheri incident, and Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut claimed the bandh was 100 percent successful.
The opposition BJP in Maharashtra claimed it was a state government-sponsored bandh and was unwarranted. However, Maharashtra Water Resources Minister and NCP leader Jayant Patil said the bandh, which began at midnight, and the state government had no connection with the protest, which was called by the ruling parties. Essential services were not involved in the bandh, he said.
The three ruling allies appealed to people to wholeheartedly support the bandh to express their solidarity with farmers. In Mumbai, buses of the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST- the transport undertaking of the city civic body) and many of the traditional 'black-yellow cabs' remained off roads, which led to huge crowds on suburban railway stations to commute by local trains, which were running as per schedule.
Shops and other commercial establishments, barring those engaged in selling essential items, remained closed in Mumbai. The BEST bus services were closed after incidents of stone pelting at some places here in the wake of the Maharashtra bandh, officials said.
Nine buses, including one hired on lease, were damaged in areas like Dharavi, Mankhurd, Shivaji Nagar, Charkop, Oshiwara, Deonar and near Inorbit Mall here early morning, said a statement issued by BEST, which is the transport undertaking of the city civic body.
"The BEST administration has called for police protection and buses will be operated from all depots after reviewing the situation," the statement said. The local trains, considered as the lifeline of Mumbai, were operating normally, but running packed as road commuters shifted to suburban rail services.
"Our services are running as per schedule," Shivaji Sutar, chief public relations officer of the Central Railway, told PTI in the morning. Most of the black-yellow cabs and auto-rickshaws were off roads in the metropolis, as per transport union leaders.
"The black-yellow taxis are operating, but their number is very less. The taxi operations outside the city airport are unaffected," said A L Quadros, general secretary of the Mumbai Taximens' Union.
The Metro rail services were also operating normally in the city. Officials of the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) said their buses from Mumbai to other places were plying as per schedule and no untoward incident was reported anywhere.
There was heavy police deployment across the state capital in the wake of the bandh. Police personnel, including women, were on patrolling duty in every area of the city and no untoward incident was reported till now, a police official said. State's Water Resources Minister Jayant Patil said the bandh was peaceful so far.
"The government has no connection with the bandh. The three parties have called the bandh. We have called for the bandh and even the people of the state are upset with the BJP government. So they are backing us, he told reporters.
Patil, along with cabinet and party colleague Nawab Malik, NCP MP Supriya Sule and others, staged a protest at the Hutatma Chowk in south Mumbai. They held placards and raised slogans against the BJP governments at the Centre and UP over the killing of farmers in Lakhimpur Kheri.
Talking to reporters, Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut said, According to reports that we have received, the bandh was 100 per cent successful. People have wholeheartedly participated in the bandh."
On reports of violence during the bandh, Raut said, Such minor incidents take place during protests all over the world." He said all the three parties participated in the bandh will full force.
Taking a dig at the BJP, which has opposed the bandh, Raut said those raising questions about the protest should ask themselves whether they are citizens of the country and are they not indebted to farmers.
"This is is not a political bandh. This is a bandh called in support of the farmers, Raut asserted. Shiv Sena MLA Sunil Prabhu also participated in the bandh in Dindoshi area of Mumbai. State Congress president Nana Patole said everyone participated in the bandh with full force.
Traders too are participating in the bandh as a mark of protest for crushing them with the "Gabbar Singh Tax" (GST), Patole said. He said the state government resolutely backs the farmers and if times come to take loans to help them, it will not hesitate in doing so. In neighbouring Thane district, shops and commercial establishments remained closed and roads at many places wore a deserted look.
Public buses remained off roads, while a few auto-rickshaws were seen plying in some places. Activists of the ruling allies, carrying placards and banners, took out morchas in Thane city, Navi Mumbai, Kalyan (in Thane) and Vasai (in Palghar) towns and raised slogans to protest the killing of farmers in Lakhimpur Kheri.
In Vasai, police detained a number of NCP activists, including women, for protesting and squatting on roads, an official said. The protesters who carried banners, placards and wore the party scarf around their necks, hailed NCP chief Sharad Pawar and raised slogans against the central government and the BJP.
BJP MLC Niranjan Davkhare and MLA Sanjay Kelkar claimed it was a "MVA government-sponsored bandh", which was a political move by the ruling parties to defame the BJP. The government in UP was capable of handling the situation (after the Lakhimpur Kheri violence), there they said.
"The state is in the midst of the festive season and when we are just getting out of the pandemic, at such a time, the bandh is unwarranted," they said, while criticising the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maharashtra government for its "failure" to address issues being faced by the state.
It is only a "lip sympathy" for the dead farmers, and the actual reason for the bandh is the ongoing raids against MVA leaders.
The Thane Small Scale Industries Association in a release condemned the killing of farmers, but said the industries and small traders were not in favour of the bandh as they were already facing losses due to the COVID-19-related curbs.
In Pune also, most of the shops and commercial establishments remained closed. The city's public transport service, Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal Ltd (PMPML) was inoperational till noon. As per a senior official from the transport utility, the service was resumed post noon.
Fatehchand Ranka, president of the Federation of Trade Association of Pune (FATP), claimed the bandh evoked 100 pe rcent response in the city as shops and commercial establishments, excluding those selling essential items, were closed.
"As per our decision, the shops will open after 3 pm on Monday," he said. The Agriculture Produce Market Committee (Market Yard) area wore a deserted look.
Rohan Ursal, secretary, Shree Chhatrapati Shivaji Market Yard Adate (Traders) Association, said all traders supported the bandh since morning and it will be observed till late evening.
Workers of the Shiv Sena, NCP, Congress, and other members of various organisations took part in a 'Nirdhar Sabha' ( protest meeting ) outside the Pune district collectorate.
Activists of the MVA allies also staged protests in several parts of the Vidarbha region, including Nagpur. Congress's Nagpur chief Vikas Thakre along with other party leaders and workers took out a rally at the busy Sitabuldi market and appealed to shopkeepers to close their establishments.
However, schools, banks, various other markets, malls and traffic operated normally in Nagpur, Gondia, Yavatmal, Buldhana and Amravati districts of Vidarbha.
In Gondia, the business fraternity refrained from closing their establishments during the festive season. Except for a few shops, most of the other commercial outlets were open as usual.
MVA leaders held a demonstration at Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar statue in Gondia and demanded stern action against the Lakhimpur Kheri violence accused Ashish Mishra and resignation of his father and Union minister Ajay Mishra.
In Yavatmal, demonstrations were staged at the Azad Maidan where Congress leader Manikrao Thakre, as well as leaders of the Shiv Sena and NCP participated.
In Buldhana, all the major markets were closed for some time on the appeal of MVA leaders, but opened later. In Amaravati, all major markets were open. Only a few shops were closed for sometime, but they too opened after a while.
In Aurangabad district of Marathwada region, Shiv Sena spokesperson Ambadas Danve and leaders of the NCP and Congress organised a joint march from Kranti Chowk to Gulmandi, and later moved to Shahgunj area.
Danve told reporters that though the incident of violence against farmers took place in Uttar Pradesh, the "nation is one". "If something happens in any corner of the country, we can express our emotions here," he said.
In Hingoli, Shiv Sena workers submitted a memorandum at the district collectorate, demanding action against the accused in the Lakhimpur Kheri incident. State Congress minister Ashok Chavan tweeted "Jai Jawan Jai Kisan" in the morning in the wake of the bandh. However, BJP MLA from Aurangabad Atul Save claimed the bandh did not evoke much response.
"If the MVA claims the bandh is in support of humanity, then this is not the correct time to call such a protest. Farmers are in deep trouble here. Small businessmen have become bankrupt due to the pandemic. Instead of helping them, the MVA has called a bandh," he said.
Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut last week said it was necessary to wake people up against the "anti-farmer" policies of the Central government. Eight people, including four farmers, died in Lakhimpur Kheri on October 3.
The farmers died after being knocked down by vehicles reportedly carrying BJP workers, after which an angry mob allegedly lynched some people in these vehicles.
On Saturday night, Union Minister of State for Home Ajay Mishra's son Ashish Mishra was arrested by the police in Lakhimpur Kheri in connection with the October 3 violence.
NCP spokesman and Maharashtra minister Nawab Malik on Sunday said the MVA demands that Union minister Ajay Misha be sacked.