Most cab and auto rickshaw association members will not operate across Karnataka on Saturday as several pro-Kannada groups have called for a state-wide bandh opposing the establishment of the Maratha Development Board by the state government.
While shops and commercial establishments will remain open on Saturday, pro-Kannada groups have called for voluntary closure between 6am and 6pm on Saturday. The bandh, led by Kannada Chaluvali Vatal Paksha’s chief, Vatal Nagaraj, has the backing of several pro-Kannada groups. The Karnataka Rakshana Vedike Yuva Sene, one of the biggest groups, which had earlier supported the call for the bandh, withdrew its support on Thursday.
Speaking to TNM, Tanveer Pasha, President of the Karnataka Ola, TaxiForSure and Uber Drivers’ Association, said that cabs will not operate in Bengaluru on Saturday as the drivers are supporting the bandh owing to the government’s inaction on the demands they had raised for relief during the pandemic.
Cab drivers, especially Ola and Uber drivers, had demanded that the state government waive payment of interest on vehicle loans during the lockdown period between March and May. The drivers also demanded that Rs 2 lakh compensation be given to the families of cab drivers, who died due to COVID-19. They also demand the establishment of a welfare board for cab drivers in Karnataka.
Karnataka Auto Rickshaw Drivers’ Association President Manjunath said that auto rickshaws will not operate on Saturday as the drivers too are demanding a separate welfare board. “If the government can set up a Maratha Development Board, why can’t they do it for us?” he questioned.
Metro services will operate as usual in Bengaluru. The Bengaluru Metropolitan Transport Corporation and Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation buses will also operate as usual. Petrol pumps will also remain open as it is an essential commodity.
Bengaluru Restaurant Owners’ Association President PC Rao had said that they do not support the shutting of establishments and that the establishments will remain open on Saturday. “We have suffered huge losses due to the lockdown. Over 2 lakh workers in restaurants across Karnataka have lost jobs. We can’t shut down establishments because people’s livelihoods will be affected,” PC Rao said.
Vatal Nagaraj said that a protest march will begin at Bengaluru’s Sangolli Rayanna Railway Station in Majestic at 10 am on Saturday and will culminate at Freedom Park. “The government has not allocated enough money for the Kannada and Culture Department. We have been demanding jobs for Kannadigas but the government is now out to establish a Maratha Development Board. Our fight is for Kannadigas,” he said.
Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa had in November, said that the government will not allow a forced bandh. He requested the pro-Kannada groups to withdraw their call for a bandh.