Bandh Hits Life But RBI, Bourses Unperturbed

Mumbai, July 30: | Updated: Jul 31 2003, 05:30am hrs
Mumbai, the financial nerve centre of the country, lived up to its indomitable spirit with the stock exchanges, the Reserve Bank of India and a number of corporate houses remaining functional even as normal life was thrown out of gear due to the bandh call given by the BJP-Shiv Sena combine in protest against Mondays bomb blast at Ghatkopar. However, normal functioning was largely affected as most corporates and banks saw only skeletal staff reporting to work.

About 100 Sena activists tried to enter PJ Towers the building that houses The Stock Exchange, Mumbai (BSE) in an attempt to disrupt activities at the fag end of trading hours. However, they withdrew after BSE executive director Manoj Vaish met them and explained how trading at the stock exchange was a matter of national interest, said informed sources. Security was subsequently beefed up, and entry to BSE restricted.

The bandh passed off peacefully, barring a few incidents of stone- pelting.

However, it was near-total as a large number of business establishments, shops, hotels and cinema houses downed their shutters. Suburban railway services were also paralysed due to the rail roko by the bandh supporters.

A number of major corporate houses, including Reliance Industries, Lupin, USV and Larsen & Toubro, remained closed on Wednesday.

Reliance has a policy of keeping some holidays in reserve which are utilised for such unforeseen happenings, a Reliance spokesperson said.

Some corporates have made provisions for working another day to make up for the loss. Others, like the Tatas and the AV Birla Group, remained open though attendance was thin. Hindalco employees in Mumbai were preparing for its annual general meeting (AGM) on Thursday. At the AV Birla Group, employees who could not make it to work on Wednesday would have to apply for a casual leave, a company source said.

Despite the bandh, both Bombay Dyeing and Novartis India went ahead with their AGMs. The Bombay Dyeing AGM was well attended with around 20 speakers.

However, the Novartis AGM at the YB Chavan auditorium saw only six shareholders speak compared with a normal bunch of 15-20 speakers. The company, however, had a normal AGM spanning from 11:00 am to 1:15 pm, with all its business heads making their presentations.

The stock market shrugged off the effects of the bandh and expiration of F&O contracts on Thursday. The benchmark BSE-30 Sensex closed above the crucial 3,758-mark convincingly. The market stayed firm despite fears that the bandh would curtail trading sentiment and that the derivatives expiry on Thursday would result in a fair amount of volatility. The Sensex ended the day at 3,788.03 points, up 0.63 per cent, while the Nifty closed at 1,183, up 0.7 per cent.

Dr Vaish said trading operations were normal and the agitation had not affected activity at the bourse.

However, inter-bank and cheque clearance activities were halted as the bandh affected the transport system.

MICR (cheque) clearance was affected totally. There was no inter-bank clearance which used to be of the order of Rs 100-200 crore in the city. However, under high-value clearances, capital market transactions were cleared to a great extent, said an RBI spokesperson. The spokesperson added that RBIs sale of state development loans 2013 and repo auctions were through without any hassle.

The Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) buses were stoned at 14 places, even as the management put about just 40 per cent of its 3,380 buses on the road on Wednesday. A BEST spokesman said the attendance of drivers and conductors was 47 per cent. Of the 4,022 conductors, 1,901 had reported for the duty, and of the 3,478 drivers, only 1,647 had attended.

State government offices and the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation wore a deserted look. The Sena-BJP workers also resorted to rasta roko and at certain places asked vehicle owners to come out and park at the roadside.

Shiv Sena working president Uddhav Thackeray, who thanked the citizens of Mumbai for making the bandh successful, made it clear that his party would not make the Mumbai bomb blasts an election issue. He claimed that the bandh was a success. He criticised the state government for its ineffective handling of the law and order situation.