Normal life was partially affected in the 12-hour bandh in West Bengal, called by Left Front and BJP to protest against alleged malpractices by the ruling Trinamool Congress in the recently-concluded civic polls.
While the BJP had initially given a call for a 12-hour bandh, it later reduced it to a 10-hour strike keeping in mind the IPL match scheduled at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata. The day also witnessed a 24-hour nationwide transport strike called by Left trade unions.
Though government offices reported normal attendance and Kolkata airport saw regular traffic, large parts of the city wore a deserted look. The usual bustle at Howrah and Sealdah stations was missing.
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In a press statement, the state government said around 90 per cent of its employees remained present in offices across Kolkata, while in districts, the rate of attendance was around 73 per cent.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, on Wednesday, had appealed to the people to oppose the strike and issued a circular stating that government employees who don’t report to duty on April 30 will lose the day’s salary.
Majority of schools in Kolkata were closed, but Calcutta University and Rabindra Bharati University conducted pre-scheduled examinations.
In the districts, violent clashes were reported from Howrah, Raiganj, Asansol, Jamuria, Birbhum and Siliguri area between Trinamool and CPM and BJP supporters. Police, deployed across the state in large numbers, had to resort to lathicharge in several areas. Over 3,000 people were arrested.
The 24-hour nationwide transport strike called by Left trade unions alongside the general strike affected transport in Kolkata.
While a limited number of government-owned buses were seen plying on the roads, private buses and taxis were few and far. Metro officials, however, said trains plied regularly.
State buses once again bore the brunt of the strike.
Buses were ransacked in north Calcutta’s College Street area, near Howrah station and in Kona Expressway area. As many as 25 buses were stoned in different parts of the state.
Train services were disrupted in the eastern rail division.
In an official communication, Eastern Railway CPRO Rabi Mahapatra said: “Train services were disrupted due to blockades… But trains plied to all sections despite delays and disruptions.”
Bandh supporters threw banana leaves on overhead wires at different places, leading to cancellation of 10 EMU locals and delay of 22 local trains in the Sealdah division. In Howrah division, blockades were reported from Rampurhat.
The Kolkata airport saw normal traffic, but lack of taxis outside caused inconvenience to passengers.
Shamik Bhattacharjee, spokesperson for Air India, said all Air India flights operated on schedule and the passenger load was normal. Staff members also reported for duty.
Outside the arrival and departure lounges, police were found helping passengers with their luggage and to find taxis.
Left Front Chairman Biman Bose said the state government has helped in making the strike successful. “The state government helped us to make the strike successful. The police force and the ruling party workers tried to create a fear psychosis among people to build a resistance against the strike. But the force they applied on people made them more determined to respond to the strike.”
BJP state president Rahul Sinha, on his part, said: “Police acted like Trinamool workers and assaulted the supporters of strike.”
Both Bose and Roy had led separate rallies in different parts of Kolkata in the morning, asking people to support the bandh.