Mumbaikars struggled to reach their destination as suburban rail services and road transport bore the brunt of protests by Dalit groups during the day-long 'bandh' against the Bhima Koregaon caste clashes on Tuesday.
Local train commuters struggled to reach offices while motorists remained stuck on roads due to the demonstrations in various parts of the city and the extended suburbs. Flight operations at Mumbai airport were badly hit today due to the Maharashtra-wide protest called by various Dalit groups, with 33 flights, 32 of them from Jet Airways, getting cancelled.
Besides, as many as 377 flights, both flying into and out of the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA), which is the world's busiest single-runway airport, were delayed.
Services of suburban trains, known as the lifeline of Mumbai, remained disrupted for hours on Central Railway's Main and Harbour Lines, and briefly on Western Railway.
Protesters blocked tracks ahead of Mankhurd railway stations on Harbour line, which resulted into bunching of trains heading towards CSTM and Panvel.
Police personnel dispersed the squatters to clear the tracks.
Harbour line services remained affected for the second consecutive day as protesters today put gunny bags and heavy slippers on tracks between Govandi and Chembur stations in the afternoon, officials said.
The squatters started a fire on tracks between Govandi and Chembur stations, which was promptly doused by security personnel.
Protests were also held on railway tracks on Trans- Harbour line connecting Panvel and Thane, at Turbhe, Rabale and Airoli stations.
Compared to Central and Harbour corridors, the Western Railway saw fewer disruptions barring the protests at Virar, Nalasopara, Borvili, Dahisar, Goregaon, Andheri, and Dadar stations.
As services remained stuck, helpless passengers, including senior citizen and even pregnant women, were forced to spend several hours in trains at various suburban stations on the Mumbai railway network.
The situation was brought under control by the security personnel, comprising GRP, RPF and local police.
The protests resulted into massive delays in services during peak morning hours and even in the afternoon.
Commuters at several stretches of the suburban network were seen walking along the tracks as trains remained stalled.
Officials said the local trains running towards CSMT were halted at several stations because of the protesters squatting on the tracks.
There was heavy deployment of railway police as well as Railway Protection Force personnel at the stations.
The bandh call was given by the Bharip Bahujan Mahasangh leader Prakash Ambedkar and Dalit organisations against the caste clashes on Monday at Bhima Koregaon village and nearby areas in Pune district in which one person was killed.
At Vikhroli and Ghatkopar stations on Central Railway (CR), protesters, comprising women and teenagers, blocked tracks and pelted stones.
Railway properties were damaged at Kanjurmarg and Dombivli railway stations on the Main line.
Railway Protection Force (RPF) officials of CR and WR (Western Railway) have registered cases against rioters under Railway Act.
In total, CR cancelled 110 services in the day.
"Due to disruptions we had to cancel 110 services. Elaborated security arrangements were made at all the stations to avoid any untoward incidents," said A K Jain, senior PRO, Central Railway.
The WR said it cancelled 60 services during the agitation period.
Operations of metro trains remained suspended between suburban Ghatkopar and the Airport Road station in Andheri during 11.40am to 4.45pm as a precautionary measure though there was no disturbances reported.
Kanjurmarg and Ghatkopar stations on Central line and Goregaon on Western line were affected the most due to protests, he said.
Meanwhile RPF (Railway Protection Force), Western, has registered 13 cases under Railway Act on charges of public nuisance, obstructing train services etc. against unknown persons, an RPF official said.
"The offenders will be identified on the basis of the videography of protests and CCTV footage," he said.
A Central Railway official said they were still compiling the data about offences registered during the protest.
With local train schedule being thrown out of gear, commuting by road was also not easy.
Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) buses, which were relied upon by Mumbaikars for commuting to various parts of the island city and suburbs also bore the brunt of the Dalit anger.
"For the security reasons, we decided not to ply our buses the whole day. Only one or two per cent buses out of the total services were operated today," said School Bus Owners Association (SBOA) president Anil Garg.
According to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), 77 per cent of its employees reported to duty today.
"Road transport sector suffered the loss of around Rs 2,000 crore. It is surprising that the government is keeping mum on this aspect," he claimed.
On roads, motorists and daily commuters were put to a lot of inconvenience as the day-long bandh crippled vehicular movement across the island city and suburbs.
Traffic came to a standstill on many roads in the country's commercial capital as protesters squatted on roads and put up road blockades at various locations.
Protesters blocked various junctions on the Western Express Highway, stretching from suburban Dahisar to Bandra, Eastern Freeway connecting Chembur with CSMT south Mumbai, Sion-Panvel road, and LBS Road in Kurla.
Spots like Sion junction, Amar Mahal junction in Chembur, Ramabai Ambedkar Nagar in Ghatkopar (East) and other roundabouts on Eastern Express Highway also witnessed massive snarls due to the protests.
Regular flow of traffic was also affected at the iconic Bandra-Worli sea link and other major roads.
An official said in the evening that traffic was limping back to normalcy as the bandh has been withdrawn.
Lakhs of daily office-goers had a harrowing time as public transport buses and auto rickshaws kept off the roads throughout the day while trains crawled due to demonstrations were held on railway tracks.
In some suburbs, protesters hurled stones at vehicles on roads and even damaged some private vehicles, including a private bus.
Due to the demonstrations, motorists remained stuck in vehicles at various places. Many commuters were seen walking as public transport buses and auto rickshaws remained off the roads.
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