The 12-hour strike called by the CPI(M)-led LDF government in Kerala, as part of the nationwide agitation by opposition parties against demonetisation and the resultant crisis being faced by the cooperative sector in the state, began this morning. In the early hours of the strike which started at 6 AM, autorickshaws were seen plying in some places, providing some relief to people. Police vehicles were used to transport railway passengers and patients coming from far off places to the Regional Cancer Centre here. Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) and private buses are keeping off roads in most places. Some Sabarimala pilgrims who arrived at Kottayam by train complained that they were unable to leave for the Ayyappa temple as buses were not plying. "We have been waiting for hours.
Though some private taxis are available, we cannot afford them as the fares are exorbitant," a man from Andhra Pradesh said. The tourism sector and vehicles of Sabarimala pilgrims have been exempted from the strike. Keeping in mind the peak tourist season, the government had decided to exempt tourists from the strike. It has issued instructions to all departments concerned, including police to take all possible steps to ensure that the tourism sector was not hit by the strike. Tourism Minister Kadakampally Surendran had also requested for exemption of tourists and tourist vehicles from the strike. German Cruise liner AIDAbella which had arrived in Kochi made a turnaround call at the Kochi port yesterday. At least 1000 tourists would be arriving at the airport today to embark the vessel, while some would be leaving it to explore various places. Tour operators were assured by Tourism Principal Secretary V Venu that the hartal would not affect the visitors. The opposition Congress-led UDF would be taking out a march to the Raj Bhavan here at 11 AM on the crisis being faced by the cooperative sector. Banks, newspapers, milk supply, hospitals and marriage functions would be exempted from the shutdown, LDF convener Vaikom Viswam had said in a statement. The LDF had announced the strike as part of the nationwide protest against the Centre's move of scrapping Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes.
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