Normal life affected in Odisha due to 6-hr Congress bandh against fuel price rise

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(Eds: Updating with fresh inputs) Bhubaneswar, Feb 15 (PTI) Normal life was affected across Odisha on Monday due to a six-hour bandh called by the Congress in protest against the hike in prices of petrol and diesel.

Educational institutions were closed, train services were hit and vehicles remained off the road during the bandh which began at 7 am.

Some untoward incidents took place during the shutdown in Bhubaneswar, Puri district and Subarnapur district.

At Bikina in Subarnapur district, bandh enforcers detained a marriage party but allowed the vehicle of the groom and bride to move.

Bandh supporters allegedly ransacked a private vehicle at Master Canteen Square in the state capital while a group of people vandalised a government office at Astrang in Puri district.

However, Congress workers also adopted 'Gandhigiri' as they offered chocolates to people who came out on the streets of Cuttack on their private vehicles during the bandh hours.

Party activists blocked national highways and other key roads in various parts of the state, including Bhubaneswar, leading to traffic jams.

East Coast Railway said that bandh supporters blocked Talcher, Bhubaneswar, Dhenkanal, Chhatarpur and Puri stations for varied periods.

Air and bus passengers faced a tough time in reaching their destinations due to unavailability of public transport.

The All Odisha Bus Owners' Association suspended services across the state during the bandh hours.

Paradip Port, however, functioned normally and its loading and unloading operations were not affected, an official said.

The main gates of state secretariat 'Lok Seva Bhavan' were closed at 10.15 am to prevent agitators from entering the premises while employees used side gates for entry and exit, a police officer said.

'I thank the people of Odisha for their support to the bandh which has been held completely in a peaceful manner,' Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee chief Niranjan Patnaik said.

He said that emergency services were exempted from the purview of the bandh.

'The bandh was called to mount pressure on both the state and central governments to reduce tax on petroleum products which will help in lowering the prices of petrol and diesel,' he said.

A litre of petrol and diesel cost Rs 89.69 and Rs 86.47 respectively in Bhubaneswar on Monday.

The ruling BJD neither supported nor opposed the bandh but the opposition BJP criticised the Congress for causing trouble to people by enforcing the bandh.

Odisha Commerce and Transport Minister Padmanabh Behera claimed that the people were irritated due to price rise of fuel, as it affected them.

Though people faced some difficulties during the bandh, it will mount pressure on the Centre, he said.

BJP deputy leader in the state assembly, B C Sethi, alleged that the Congress called the bandh to divert people's attention from its internal squabbles.

'The state government should also announce a reduction in VAT and opt for GST on petroleum products to bring down the prices of petrol and diesel,' he said.

As many as 25 platoons of police personnel were deployed in the state capital to prevent any untoward incident, Bhubaneswar DCP U S Dash told reporters. PTI AAM NN NN