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Updated: July 6, 2010 04:00 IST

Total shutdown in West Bengal

Staff Reporter
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The normally-busy Sealdah area in central Kolkata wears a deserted look on Monday during the “Bharat Bandh” to protest against the hike in fuel prices. Photo: Sushanta Patronobish
The normally-busy Sealdah area in central Kolkata wears a deserted look on Monday during the “Bharat Bandh” to protest against the hike in fuel prices. Photo: Sushanta Patronobish

Normal life came to a halt across West Bengal on Monday, as the Left Front and the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance separately observed a 12-hour nationwide strike in protest against the Centre's decision to hike fuel prices.

However, no major incidents of violence were reported.

While most vehicles stayed off the road in the city, nearly all commercial and educational establishments remained closed. People arriving here on flights and trains had a harrowing time reaching their destinations due to the absence of transport.

In the absence of traffic, gully footballers and cricketers turned the city thoroughfares into playing fields.

Attendance at government offices was abysmally low, including at the State Secretariat where only 17 out of nearly 5000 employees attended office, according to a senior official. Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee also turned up.

Most of the factories remained shut, barring a few jute mills. A few workers did turn up in tea gardens in north Bengal.

Though Metro Rail service was available, most trains ran with barely any passengers.

According to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport authorities, 28 flights took off and 17 landed at the airport during the bandh hours, against the 100 flights that take off and land on normal working days.

The Railways cancelled nearly 30 long-distance trains while several others were stranded en route or rescheduled. Those supporting the strike squatted on railway tracks and created obstruction in the Howrah, Sealdah and Malda divisions and even damaged a booking counter at Barasat station.

Biman Bose, State secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), described the strike as “peaceful and successful with the voluntary participation of the people.”

However, Manas Bhunia, president of the West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee condemned it as “a government-sponsored bandh that was forcibly implemented.”

Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee also opposed the strike stating that it showed that the CPI (M) was against development. “I don't believe in calling bandhs every month,” she said.

Supporters of the BJP led by the president of its State unit, Rahul Sinha, took out a procession.

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