Transport strike affects normal life in Kerala(Lead)

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Thiruvananthapuram, Aug 7 (IANS) Normal life was disrupted in Kerala on Tuesday as public and private buses and other vehicles went off the roads in response to a one-day strike called by All India Motor Transport Organisation.

The 24-hour strike began on Monday midnight, following which auto-rickshaws, taxis, freight vehicles, state-owned as well as private buses stopped plying across Kerala.

Private vehicles, though, continued to ply as usual across the state.

Attendance was thin or practically nil in offices and educational intuitions. “I did not go to the school and will have to apply for leave. In my school, few teachers turned up. Students however did not turn up,” a schoolteacher told IANS here.

With most vehicles off the roads, there was a huge rush on the Kochi Metro.

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In the state capital, Health Minister K.K. Shailaja reached office riding pillion on a staff member’s two-wheeler.

“My party (CPI-M) is taking part in the protest. So, I just followed the oft-adopted practice of arriving at office (on a two-wheeler),” said Shailaja.

Another Minister K.T. Jaleel also rode pillion on a two-wheeler for about 20 km from here to attend a function.

Even automobile workshops and spare-parts shops remained closed due to the shutdown.

The transport body is demanding withdrawal of the proposed Motor Vehicle Amendment Bill, since passed by the Lok Sabha but awaiting the Rajya Sabha’s nod.

Barring the Bharatiya Janata Party-affiliated Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, all the other trade unions are backing the protest.

Shops and establishments were open in several districts, but markets wore a deserted look due to non-arrival of lorries ferrying consumables.

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People had a tough time commuting to and from railways stations. Police said it was trying its best to ensure transport for patients in need of emergencies.

Minor skirmishes were reported from a few places between protesters and drivers of taxis and auto-rickshaws who tried to ply vehicles despite the shutdown.

At several places, the protesters waiting at important road junctions could be seen chasing away those driving public vehicles.

The protesters are also demanding reduction in insurance premium, besides an end to frequent hikes in the prices of petrol and diesel.

–IANS

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