Protests rock CST station
Around 10,000 protesters demanding fulfillment of their demands brought south Mumbai to a standstill for about four hours on Wednesday afternoon, after the government failed to pay heed to them in the morning.
The protesters comprising handicapped persons from across the state and farmers from drought and flood affected regions of Vidarbha, who had been protesting at Azad Maidan since morning, decided to shift to CST station and its periphery at around 2 pm, swarming the roads, platforms and tracks which resulted in disruption of vehicular traffic for nearly four hours and train services for 45 minutes. This move by the protesters got them the desired result as chief minister Prithviraj Chavan immediately contacted the organiser of the protest, independent MLA Bachoo Kadu, and also sent his emissary MLA Sachin Ahir to pacify the protesters, requesting them not to hold the city to ransom, and assuring that their demands would be fulfilled by the government.
Speaking about the protest, advocate Ajay Tapkeer, a spokesperson of Prahar Vidyarthi Sanghatana (PVS) that organised the protest, along with Apang Kranti Andolan at Azad Maidan, said that though the government had assured a delegation that had met officials at Mantralaya a month ago that their list of demands would be fulfilled within a month, nothing had materialised, forcing them to resort to protests. “The protest has been named Dera Andolan, which means all the protesters will camp themselves in the city till the government gives a time limit for fulfilling their demands,” said Mr Tapkeer.
The organisers claimed a turnout of nearly 15,000-17,000 protesters at Azad Maidan on Wednesday morning, which went on till noon. However, after there was no response from the government, a decision was taken to move the protest out of the ground and onto the roads and CST railway station.
“The police has been instructed by the government not to resort to any violent means of restricting the protesters as they include thousands of handicapped persons, hence they managed to make it to the station and flowed on to the roads,” said a senior police official, requesting anonymity.
The south bound vehicular traffic was held up since 1 pm on Dr DN Road, and railway services came to a standstill for half an hour from 2.30 pm to 3.05 pm, said railway officials.
According to the PVS spokesperson, the resulting chaos prompted the CM to call Mr Kadu and assure him that their demands would be fulfilled by the government. “Mr Kadu has been invited by the CM for a meeting on Thursday wherein all the demands of the handicapped and farmers are expected to be fulfilled,” said Mr Tapkeer.
An indicator of the government’s sincerity towards fulfilling the demands can be gauged from the fact that Mr Ahir reached Azad Maidan and met Mr Kadu and other protesters, personally conveying the CM’s message.
Mumbaikars wanting to spend leisure time on the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti by visiting tourists spots in south Mumbai were harried and many had to cancel their plans, turn back or take circuitous routes to reach their destinations.