3RD LEAD (UPDATE, PHOTOS ADDED)
Tamil Nadu shuts down for traders' bandh on Eelam Tamils issue
[TamilNet, Friday, 31 October 2008, 16:34 GMT]
Shops and commercial establishments in Tamil Nadu shut down and the state's roads wore a deserted look as a result of the traders' bandh (shut down) Friday on the Eezham Tamils issue. According to reports in the Indian media, the bandh was total all over the state as over 25 lakh traders, owing allegiance to 5,500 trade unions, took part in the peaceful agitation to show their solidarity with the Eezham Tamils. All political parties in Tamil Nadu had extended their support to this bandh which took place from six in the morning to six in the evening in Tamil Nadu and Puduchery (Puthuchcheari). The shutdown of the private sector has drawn more participation than the government organised human-chain, observers said.
All the shops on Ranganathan Street, a main shopping area in Chennai, remained closed as well as all shops in all remote areas of Tamil Nadu and Puduchcheari. [Photo courtesy: Tami Murasu]
The organisors of the shutdown said the state-wide success of the bandh, even in rural areas, reflected that sentiments among Tamil Nadu public for Eezham Tamils running high, independent of state orchestration.
T. Vellaiyan, President of the Tamil Nadu Traders Union that called for the bandh, demanded an immediate halt to the genocide of Tamils in the war-ravaged island.
The bandh had a two point agenda: to condemn the Sri Lankan military's genocide on Tamils, and to express solidarity with the Eezham Tamils who had lost their livelihood in the island.
The bandh call had a rousing reception from traders of all strata of society: roadside tea-shops and grocery stores never opened, so did some of the largest cloth stores and hotels.
Asia's largest perishable goods market at Koyambedu in Chennai. [Photo courtesy: Tami Murasu]
Asia's largest perishable goods market at Koyambedu in Chennai, which has roughly about 2500 wholesale shops, was completely shut down from 12 midnight Friday. Consequently, about half a million fruit/vegetable shops which get their supplies from here, were also shut down. This market employs about 10,000 workers and 500 drivers.
The traders' bandh affected all cities in Tamil Nadu. The public was affected because it was impossible to locate any store that had not downed its shutters. It was difficult to even buy a packet of milk, because the distribution was wrapped up by six in the morning.
Scheduled to be held originally on 17 October, the bandh was postponed to 31 October on account of the decision taken at the All Party Meeting organized by the Government of Tamil Nadu. Over 5.500 trade unions had come together to organize this bandh – they had distributed pamphlets highlighting the sufferings of the Eezham Tamils to all affiliated traders.
Moreover, traders from other Indian states, who run some of the most successful businesses in Chennai also extended their support to the bandh and cooperated by not operating Friday.
Mr. Vellaiyan was arrested by the Tamil Nadu Police for alleged 'enforcement' of the boycott following 'politically motivated complaints', the organisers said and added that they promptly secured his release.
Evening papers and television channels in India labelled this bandh a hundred percent success.