Odisha: Bandh for Six Hours a total Success
Ali Kishor Patnaik
AS a follow up to the successful fortnight-long protest from June 16 to 30, demanding to rollback diesel, petrol price hike and to control the prices of all essential commodities, four left parties - CPI(M), CPI, CPI(M-L) Liberation and All India Forward Bloc gave a call for Odisha Bandh on July 15. Given the Covid conditions and relaxation of restrictions of lockdown for a limited time, the bandh call was from 6 am to 12 noon, for six hours.
Though the bandh call was from four left parties, it was supported and joined by as many as 10 political parties including the Indian National Congress, Aam Admi Party, Samajwadi Party, RPI and others. The state leaders of these parties not only issued statements in support of the bandh call but also joined the Left parties volunteers in procession and picketing in many parts of the state.
On the day of the bandh, rail and road transport came to a halt from 6 am. Hundreds of trucks on national highways at Bhubaneswar, Balasore, Rourkela, Berhampur were stalled till 12 noon. Though Covid restrictions were partially relaxed after three months and shops were allowed to open from 6 am to 2 pm, in 10 districts including Bhubaneswar, and till 5 pm in other 20 districts, there was a complete shutdown on the weekend all over the state.
Resistance to the six hours bandh was not seen anywhere in the state. The wrath and anger of the people were clearly manifested against the Modigovernment with their spontaneous support of the bandh call. Shutters of shops did not open, and government offices were closed. In Bhubaneswar, due to heavy picketing by the volunteers with red flags under the leadership of Janardan Pati and Santosh Das, state secretariat members of CPI(M), regional offices of Indian Oil Corporation(IOCL) and Bharat Petroleum Corporation(BPCL) could not open their offices. LIC, GIC, public sector and private banks were also closed. The normal functioning of the state was disrupted and it took a deserted look all over.
Panicking over the crystalising opinion against the Modi government for its misdeeds and holding the centre responsible for hike in petroleum prices and skyrocketing price rise of all essential commodities, BJP tried to divert the attention of people by raising the issue of power tariff hike in the state. A recent statement of the then minister of petroleum and natural gas, Dharmendra Pradhan, that fuel prices cannot be reduced by reducing the taxes as that tax money is utilised for Covid vaccination and other welfare activities, was rejected by the people as their experience in vaccination is completely different.
In Bhubaneswar, state Congress president, with their MLAs, and state office bearers of other parties, joined the procession led by Ali Kishor Patnaik, secretary, CPI(M) Odisha state committee; state secretariat members, Suresh Panigrahi and Dusmanta Das;Asish Kanungo, secretary, CPI Odisha state council; Jyoti Ranjan Mohapatra, general secretary of AIFB Odisha state committee and others.
Earlier as well, joint action initiated by CPI(M) and other Left parties for effective Covid management by central and state governments and on peasants’ struggle against power tariff hike, got positive response from parties like INC, AAP, SP, RJD, NCP, RPI etc.
Jaganath Mishra, Bishnu Mohanty, Nirmal Nayak, Sisir Hui, state secretariat members of CPI(M), led the bandh at different points of Bhubaneswar, Rourkela, and Balasore. In 22 out of 30 districts of Odisha, CPI(M) volunteers participated and led the six hours bandh call.