Normal life in Odisha was thrown out of gear due to a dawn-to-dusk bandh called by Opposition Congress to protest alleged police oppression on party workers during a rally organized by the party on September 6.
Many trains were left stranded en route at various stations like Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Khurda Road, Brahmapur, Balugaon, Bhadrak, Angul, Dhenkanal, Sambalpur and Koraput from the early morning till noon at most of these places, an East Coast Railway (ECoR) release stated.
The roads wore a deserted look as vehicular traffic came to a grinding halt in the state with buses, trucks, rickshaws remaining off the roads during the 12-hour bandh.
Security personnel were deployed adequately to avoid any untoward incident. Sources said, as many as 51 platoons of police were deployed in the city for safeguarding the government establishments and other sensitive zones.
Similarly, all the shops, business establishments and commercial centres downed their shutters in all the major cities across the state. Town bus services in Bhubaneswar, Cuttack and Puri were also paralyzed.
The bandh also paralysed operations of eight open cast coal mines of Talcher Coalfields. Coal despatch from these mines was grounded to a halt. However, coal mines at the Ib valley coalfield functioned normally by afternoon though their operations were impacted in the morning. The power plants of National Thermal Power Corporation Ltd (NTPC) and captive power plant of National Aluminium Company (Nalco) at Angul operated normally.
While the banks remained open, the volume of transactions was low compared to normal days, said Bibekanada Das, zonal president (Odisha), State Bank of India (SBI) Officers’ Association.
The agitation started from early morning in different localities of the city. The government offices were open though thin attendance was recorded.
Police sources said as many as 4,000 Congress supporters including Odisha Congress chief Niranjan Patnaik and senior leaders like Nrusingha Mishra, Lalatendu Bidyadhar Mohapatra and Bijay Laxmi Sahoo were arrested across the state for picketing near government offices and other places to enforce the shut down. Commenting on the agitation, Patnaik said, “The historic 12-hour bandh has drawn overwhelming support from the people of the state. The response speaks volumes of the support the Congress has elicited from the people on its call for Parivartan (change).”
The ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD), however, sought to play down the Congress bandh and blamed the Opposition party for attempting to malign a popular government.
“On the pretext of bandh and rallies, the Congress is leveling baseless allegations against a popular government led by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. The sham allegations raised by the Congress is only a pointer to the party's madness,” BJD’s vice president Damodar Rout and the party’s youth wing president Sanjay Das Burma stated in a joint release.
The BJD also demanded arrest of Congress leader Jagdish Tytler, in charge of the party’s Odisha affairs, over the unruly incident in which a lady constable was beaten during a Congress rally on last Thursday. It may be recalled that the Congress rally had turned violent when some party workers attempted to break the security barricade for entering into the assembly premises that led to bloody clashes with police.
Even as the police used water cannons, tear gas and batons to disperse the mob, a lady constable was mercilessly beaten allegedly by some agitating Congress workers.