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Hartal in Kumbalam today

By Our Staff Reporter

KOCHI, MARCH 24. The Janakeeya Samara Samithy at Kumbalam will observe a hartal in Kumbalam panchayat on Thursday in protest against the police action on samithy activists who staged a protest march today against the levy of toll on vehicles plying over the Kumbalam-Pananghad bridge.

K.S.Radhakrishnan, Kumbalam panchayat president and samithy chairman, said the hartal would be held from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. School buses and vehicles carrying SSLC students have been exempted from the hartal.

Mr.Radhakrishnan said the police had manhandled two of its representatives who participated in today's march to the toll booth located at Pananghad.

The police had blocked the march in front of the Pananghad police station. Samithy representatives later squatted on the road as a mark of protest against the police action. A minor scuffle occurred when the police tried to forcibly remove the samithy representatives.

Meanwhile, the samithy has decided to strengthen its agitation against the levy of toll on vehicles using the Kumbalam-Pananghad bridge. The samithy representatives said that Kumbalam residents had been suffering for the last 16 years following the "unscientific collection" of toll from vehicle users. The samithy has demanded that the toll collection should be scrapped. S.R.Selvakumar, joint convener of the samithy, said that vehicle users would not pay the toll from now onwards as part of the third phase of the agitation against the collection of toll. He said the Kerala High Court had directed the authorities to submit details of the toll collected from users on the basis of a petition filed by the samithy. The authorities had not yet initiated any steps in this regard, he added.

The Kumbalam panchayat committee had conveyed its decision to the authorities to stop levy of toll on vehicles plying through the Kumbalam-Pananghad bridge. The samithy had also staged a dharna in front of the Deputy Chief Engineer, Public Works, in August 2003 to press its demand.

Mr. Radhakrishnan said the samithy was forced to intensify its agitation as the authorities had failed to initiate any action to stop toll collection. The samithy had organised a mass dharna in February. Kumbalam residents had laid siege to the NH bypass road as part of the agitation.

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