Air travellers bear the brunt of shutdown caused by Sena supremo’s death

Even as Mumbai crawled back to life on Monday after the cremation of Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray, there were fewer vehicles on the otherwise busy roads of the city. Taxis and auto-rickshaws, which stayed off the roads on Saturday and Sunday, were slowly back on the streets.

However, several holidayers , who were planning to return to the city over the weekend after Diwali celebrations, were in a tight spot. Most were forced to cancel their tickets and re-schedule trips to Monday and Tuesday.

Worst hit

“About 15 to 20 per cent of air tickets were rescheduled on Saturday and Sunday,” said Reji Philip of Cosmos Agencies, a Mumbai-based travel agency. According to travel agents, the maximum air ticket cancellations or rescheduling were seen in the Delhi-Mumbai, Kochi-Mumbai and Chennai-Mumbai sectors. As a result, air fares in the Delhi-Mumbai sector soared to Rs 18,000 on Monday. Similarly, the Chennai-Mumbai sector air fares jumped to Rs 12,000 on Monday.

Some sectors, such as the Kolkata-Mumbai leg, were booked to capacity on Monday and Tuesday, leaving little scope for rescheduling of tickets on those days.

Passengers who landed at the Mumbai airport and railway stations on Saturday and Sunday were the worst affected. With the prepaid booths at the airport and railway terminals closed, and very few taxis and autos plying, several cabbies demanded exorbitant fares.

For a distance with a regular prepaid fare of Rs 400, passengers had to shell out as much as Rs 2,000 to Rs 3,000 on Saturday and Sunday.

Arrest

Meanwhile, a 21-year-old girl who posted comments against Bal Thackeray on Facebook was arrested by the police. A friend of the girl’s was also arrested for endorsing the anti-Thackeray comment on the social networking site. However, both of them were later released on bail after they were produced before a local court. The girl hails from Palghar in Thane district.

Most shops and departmental stores remained closed during the first half of Monday, only gradually opening towards the second half. Schools and colleges that were scheduled to reopen from Monday after the Diwali holidays are now set to open only on Tuesday.

nivedita.ganguly@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on November 19, 2012)
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