The houseboat of Nobel Laureate and renowned biophysicist Michael Levitt in the backwaters of Alappuzha, Kerala, was blocked for hours by left-wing trade union activists from CITU during the nationwide strike against the Centre on Wednesday.
According to the reports, Michael Levitt, an American-British-Israeli biophysicist and a professor of structural biology at the Stanford University in the United States, and his wife were stranded in a houseboat in Alappuzha when protestors prevented their boat from leaving for more than three hours.
Levitt, who received the 2013 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, was on a three-day visit to the state for a lecture series as a government guest. His boat, anchored near Alappuzha after a trip to Kumarakom, was not allowed to leave by CITU protestors, who threatened the crew.
“It is as if a bandit stopped us at gunpoint and delayed us under threat of force for one hour. These persons, who did this, ignored all arguments that tourists were exempted and that I am a VIP guest of the Kerala government. He is obviously acting knowing that he is safe from prosecution. Sadly, this makes me fear that India is sinking into lawlessness,” Levitt wrote in an email to his tour agent at Kottayam.
In the email, which was later released to the media, he also said the person who blocked them “ignored all arguments that tourists were exempted” from the strike.
The police have now registered a case after the houseboat owners filed a complaint in this regard. “We received a call from the boat driver, saying the protesters were blocking the boats. When we were about to leave for the place, the driver called us back and told us the issue was solved and that they have left,” said a police officer.
Reacting to the incident, Kerala Tourism Minister Kadakampally Surendran said, “We will take strong action against those anti-social elements who blocked the boat. Levitt was here as a state government guest. We will also look into whether there were any lapses in providing security to him.”
The Kerala trade unions had earlier declared that the tourism industry will be exempt from the strike. However, CITU members who stranded Levitt’s boat, allegedly did not honour the promise. The boat owners’ association has reportedly informed that houseboats carrying tourists were stopped at several other places, often for hours.
Ten trade unions, including INTUC, AITUC, and CITU, backed by left parties and Congress, had called the nationwide strike to protest against labour reforms, FDI, disinvestment, corporatisation and privatisation policies and to press for a 12-point common demand of the working class relating to minimum wage among others.
Banking, transport and other services were hit by the strike, especially in the non-BJP ruled states. However, large parts of the country remained unaffected.