Bhubaneswar: The Bharat Bandh called by the Congress and Left Front protesting the rising fuel prices affected normal life across Odisha today.
Vehicular movement came to a grinding halt in major cities and towns of the state as Congress workers resorted to road blockade at various junctions.
Bus passengers suffered severe inconvenience as buses stayed off the roads due to the bandh. Passengers remained stranded at major bus stands across the state including Baramunda and Badambadi bus stands.
Train services were also affected due to the bandh as Congress leaders and workers staged rail roko at Balangir, Bhubaneswar, Bhadrak, Sambalpur, Cuttack and Jaleswar railway stations disrupting movement of several trains.
Effect of the bandh was largely felt in capital city Bhubaneswar as Congress workers blocked road at Khandagiri Square, Vani Vihar Chhak and Satsang Vihar Chhak, thereby paralysing movement of vehicles on the National Highway across the city.
Several senior Congress leaders also staged a sit-in at the Master Canteen Square near Congress Bhawan, party’s state headquarters here.
Led by Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee President Niranjan Patnaik, hundreds of party workers later staged picketing near the main gate of Odisha Legislative Assembly and demonstration in front of State Secretariat.
More than 50 Congress activists including senior leader Bhakta Das were detained by Commissionerate Police while marching towards the State Assembly.
Biju Patnaik University of Technology (BPUT) Vice Chancellor cancelled exams scheduled for today in view of the bandh.
Emergency services including ambulance, movement of examinees, medicine shops and vehicles carrying milk have been kept out of the purview of the bandh.
“The Bandh is being observed peacefully across Odisha. The people of Odisha have extended their support to the bandh call, for which I thank them. The rise in fuel price has affected the common people across the country. The Central government led by Narendra Modi is favouring the corporate houses,” said Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee President Niranjan Patnaik.
While parties like the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S), Samajwadi Party (SP), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), DMK, Trinamool Congress, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) backed the shutdown, the Left has also declared a nationwide hartal.
Odisha’s ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) said although it is against the fuel price hike, it will not support the Bandh. “We have been holding protests across the state to make the people aware about the steep price rise of the petroleum products. We are not supporting the Bharat Bandh,” said BJD spokesperson Sasmit Patra.
The BJP said there is no reason for calling a nationwide protest as hike in fuel prices is due to the rise in crude oil prices in international market and falling rupee value against US dollar. “The State Government should reduce VAT on petrol and diesel to provide relief to the people,” said state BJP vice-president Samir Mohanty.
The State Government declared closure of schools and colleges today to ensure the safety of the students during the bandh. Government employees were asked to reach office before 9.30 am.