Govt has deployed 6 RAF companies, one each of CISF and SRPF at sensitive locations.
Maharashtra bandh: Maratha agitators disrupt traffic, security upped in state
Mumbai: Maratha agitators disrupted road traffic in some parts of Maharashtra today as part of their statewide protests over the reservation demand.
Protesters halted buses and other vehicles on roads in Latur, Jalna, Solapur and Buldhana districts, officials said.
Sakal Maratha Samaj, an umbrella body of Maratha groups, has called for a 'bandh' today across Maharashtra, except Navi Mumbai which had witnessed large-scale violence last month during protests by the community.
Amol Jadhavrao, a leader of Sakal Maratha Samaj, said on Wednesday that they would hold a peaceful protest from 8 am to 6 pm today.
Another Maratha faction has, however, given a call to hold a sit in outside the Mumbai suburban district collector's office.
The authorities had on Wednesday ordered closure of schools and colleges in some cities, including Pune, fearing violence. Though Navi Mumbai has been excluded from the bandh, the Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC) in the densely populated township has decided to remain shut today.
Even as Maratha groups have excluded essential services from the bandh purview, the supply of vegetables was affected in some parts of the state, including Mumbai, APMC officials said. A vegetable seller in Mumbai's Dadar area said the 'bandh' was not forced on them, but they had voluntarily shut down business for the day in support of the cause.
In Satara, no state transport buses were running today and all vehicles were parked at the central bus stand. All petrol pumps and vegetable markets were also closed in Satara.
The pro-reservation agitators have decided to take out a bike rally in Pune district today. Internet services have also been suspended in 7 tehsils of Pune district - Shirur, Khed, Baramati, Junnar, Maval, Daund and Bhor, as a precautionary measure. A pro-quota group in Latur blocked roads from midnight and disrupted the vehicular movement.
There were similar protests in Nashik, Buldhana and Solapur districts where agitators blocked roads in some areas this morning, police officials said.
The state-run public transport services have been partially suspended in Osmanabad and Buldhana districts to avoid any damage as protesters had targeted buses in the previous round of agitation last month.
Shiv Sena MLA from Kolhapur, Prakash Abitkar, claimed Wednesday night that he had sought permission of the state Assembly Speaker to hold an agitation in the Vidhan Bhawan premises in Mumbai today to extend support to the Maratha community's demand for reservation. However, it was not clear whether he was granted the permission.
Maharashtra Police has also stepped up security so as to maintain law and order.
Six companies of Rapid Action Force (RAF), one company each of Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) and State Reserve Police Force (SRPF) have been deployed at sensitive locations, an official said.
Home Guard personnel are also being deployed to assist the police at various places, he said. Maximum number of local police personnel will be deployed across the metro cities and at sensitive locations in Aurangabad rural, Pune rural and western Maharashtra, he said.
Police have also appealed to activists to hold protests in a peaceful manner and not take the law into their hands. There is a possibility that anti-social elements could infiltrate the protests for causing a disturbance, the official added.
He said the police will videograph the protests and maintain a strict vigil in various areas in Mumbai and other parts through CCTV cameras. Police personnel in plainclothes will also be deployed among the protesters, he said.
The police will also keep an eye on social media posts during the shutdown.
The 'bandh' is being organised despite Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis' assurances that his government was working on providing reservation to Marathas in government jobs and educational institutions, one that is legally sustainable.
Fadnavis had sought time till November to take steps with regard to the quota. Senior state minister Chandrakant Patil said on Wednesday that "nothing can be done" on their demand till November 15.
Marathas, a politically influential community that constitutes around 30 per cent of the state's population, have been demanding 16 per cent reservation. Community members had earlier taken out silent marches across the state to highlight their demands, prominent among them being that of reservation.