India's southern state of Tamil Nadu is bracing for a dawn-to- dusk bandh (strike) supported by opposition parties tomorrow on the Cauvery with police deploying thousands of personnel across the state to ensure peace even as a youth set himself on fire today over the water sharing row.
The bandh call given by several farmers and traders bodies, including Tamil Nadu All Farmers' Federations and Tamil Nadu Vanigar Sangangalin Peramaippu (a traders' collective) is supported by main opposition party DMK, Tamil Nadu Congress Committee, MDMK, PMK, TMC, CPI(M), and CPI.
Protesters have also called for rail and road 'rokos' or strikes.
Primarily to protest the violence targeted against the Tamils in Karnataka, the bandh is also aimed at seeking Cauvery water for the state and a final solution to the problem.
Ruling AIADMK and trade unions affiliated to it have been non-committal on their participation in the bandh.
After Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah wrote to his Tamil Nadu counterpart Jayalalithaa, urging her to ensure protection of Kannada speaking people, police said all measures have been taken to ensure peace.
Thousands of police personnel, including armed reserves will be deployed in Chennai and other parts of the state.
Over 15,000 police personnel will be on duty.
Protection was being provided to Karnataka-related business establishments, schools, institutions and areas where Kannada speaking people live, including Krishnagiri district.
Commercial firms, including over 35,000 jewellery and fuel outlets are expected to remaine closed. However 'Company Owned and Company Operated Fuel Outlets' of Indian Oil, Bharat Petroleum and Indian Oil will operate, officials said.
While sporadic demonstrations were held today too, a 24-year-old man set himself on fire at a rally held by Nam Tamizhar Katchi (NTK) here for "retrieving Tamil Nadu's rights in Cauvery", and to condemn attacks on the Tamils in Karnataka.
An official of the Kilpauk Government Medical College Hospital, where he has been admitted, told PTI the "man has sustained 93 per cent burns, his chances of survival are dim."
"It is a painful act. We do not support it. No one should do such a thing," NTK leader Seeman said.
Before he set himself afire, he threw pamphlets urging people to fight for rights of Tamil Nadu people on Cauvery and other issues. Blaming the Centre on Cauvery, unidentified persons pelted stones at an office of Indian Oil Corporation Limited and some glass panes were damaged, police said.
Tamil outfits in Union Territory of Puducherry have called for a similar bandh tomorrow.
Chennai-specific local and MRTS (Mass Rapid Transit System) trains, and metro rail will function as usual, authorities said.
Similarly, state-aided and government schools are all set to work as usual. As regards private schools and colleges, only a section of them are participating in the bandh.
Autos, taxis, trucks, private buses, commercial freight services, are, however, slated to keep off the roads.
In a joint statement, Tamil film industry representatives including producers, directors, actors, workmen, theatre owners, and small screen artistes said they will participate in the bandh.
K R Nandakumar, general secretary, Tamil Nadu Nursery Primary Matriculation and CBSE (private) Schools Association, said circulars have been sent to 18,000 schools in the state about the body's decision to close down educational institutions on Friday on account of the bandh. The quarterly exams scheduled for tomorrow have been proposed to be conducted on Saturday, he told PTI.
TN Private Schools Association President R Visalaksh, however, said, "we are supporting the bandh cause, but, we are not participating as rescheduling exams is not possible."
Vegetable and milk vendors will also join the bandh, members of respective organisations said. Further, vegetable vendors will down shutters.
V R Sounderrajan, Advisor, All Wholesale Traders' Association at the Koyambedu market in Chennai, said thousands of vegetable vendors and related workers would participate in the bandh by staying away from work.
Tamil Nadu Milk Agents Welfare Association Founder and President, S A Ponnusamy said "Since over 75 lakh retail vendors and 1.5 lakh agents will be participating in the bandh, there will be a 50-60 per cent shortage in supply."
Though it is a dawn-to-dusk bandh, vendors and agents will participate only between 9 AM and 5 PM by closing distribution centres and retail outlets, keeping in view needs of children, senior citizens and patients, he added.
In neighbouring union territory of Puducherry, more than 30 Tamil fringe outfits have announced a 12-hour bandh.
DMK's local unit announced its support to the bandh while Puducherry Traders Federation said all business establishments will remain closed tomorrow.
".... All necessary steps have been taken to ensure that law and order does not face any setback," Puducherry chief secretary Manoj Parida said.