Capital crippled by protests over citizenship law

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on December 19, 2019

Traffic was reduced to a crawl for miles on the Delhi-Gurgaon expressway due to protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act on Thursday   -  -

Mobile/internet blackout, Metro and traffic disruptions throw normal life out of gear

Delhi and its adjoining areas saw a clampdown on mobile phone services, traffic snarls, metro rail blockages and delayed flights following protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) on Thursday.

Normal life in the country’s Capital and in adjoining cities like Gurgaon was disrupted following protests against the CAA and steps taken by government authorities to clamp down on protests.

Communication and connectivity – through mobile, metro rail and roads – got hit as service providers such as Airtel, Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC), Vodafone-Idea and Jio shut down their services and roads were blocked in parts of the Capital following government orders.

Steps by police to check the inflow of protesters from adjoining areas of Delhi resulted in traffic jams on the National Highway connecting Delhi and Haryana. These traffic jams – which made it a nightmare for people trying to reach their work-places in the national capital region – also led to passengers missing their flights. Taking note of these difficulties, airlines such as Air India, GoAir, Indigo and Vistara curtailed or delayed their flights.

Communication shut down

To block all kinds of inflammatory communication, Internet service providers were asked to shut down certain apps between 9 am and 1 pm. Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio and Vodafone-Idea were told by the Centre to shut down their Internet services till 1 pm, sources confirmed. Operators refrained from commenting, but company sources confirmed they were asked to “shut down” voice, data and SMS (text messages) from 9 am to 1 pm in some parts of Delhi following a directive from the Delhi Police.

Sunil Mittal, Chairman, Bharti Airtel, later in the day, said the company had complied with a government directive in this regard. “There is a government order and we are just following it,” Mittal told reporters after a pre-Budget meeting with Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

Commuting glitches

Delhi Metro, which is the lifeline for lakhs of people, also closed entry and exit points at several stations.

The urban rail transporter tweeted some 11 times for roughly eight hours of the day (between 9:30 am and 6 pm) under the head “security update”, informing passengers regarding its plans to suspend halts and entry and exit from about 18 stations.

Delhi and approach roads also saw traffic jams and snarls during the day as motorists avoided protest areas, and police blocked some routes and upped its security checks. Authorities also took to Twitter to update people on the traffic situation. A National Highway connecting Delhi and Gurgaon, which houses lots of corporates and multinationals, also saw serpentine queues, resulting in loss of productive hours and fuel.

As passengers were stuck in traffic jams, airlines such as Air India, GoAir, IndiGo and Vistara delayed their flights to accommodate passengers, offered to re-book passengers by either waiving cancellation or re-booking fee, or offered to fit them in the next flight provided seats were available. However, passengers had to bear higher flight charges due to the last minute booking.

IndiGo, which had curtailed 10 per cent of its flights, also booked hotel rooms closer to the airport to keep its crew ready to be deployed at a short notice. Air India offered to give “full refund” to all passengers who were unable to reach the airport or reached late on Thursday. “Passengers wanting to cancel today for this reason will also get full refund,” Air India said.

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Published on December 19, 2019
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