Strike paralyzes life in West Bengal (Lead)April 27th, 2010 - 5:49 pm ICT by IANS
Kolkata, April 27 (IANS) Life was paralysed in West Bengal as flight and train services were inoperative and vehicles kept off the roads Tuesday, following a 12-hour strike called by 13 political parties against price rise. Two train passengers were injured in a clash with strike supporters at Pundooah station, the Eastern Railway said.
The incident occurred when some passengers tried to remove flags and banners put on the tracks by the protesters, who had set up a blockade, an Eastern Railway release said.
The streets in Kolkata and district towns were deserted, as people chose to remain indoors or were forced to do so in the absence of public transport. Shops, markets, offices and business establishments remained closed, as the state witnessed a virtual shutdown.
Examinations scheduled for the day in universities, schools and colleges were cancelled in advance, and these institutions were shut.
At the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport, not a single flight took off or landed since the strike started at 6 a.m., airport sources said.
Various private airlines, including Kingfisher, cancelled or rescheduled their flights in view of the strike, though some planes of Jet Airways took off in the morning before the strike began.
Some air passengers who flew in a little before the start of the strike were stranded as there was no taxi or bus to take them to their destination.
“I arrived early at 4.30 a.m. but could not get a confirmed ticket as there was a heavy rush of passengers for early morning flights before the strike started. Now I have got a confirmed ticket for an evening flight. But I have to spend the entire day at the airport as there are no vehicles on the road. Worst still, the doors of the toilet at the airport have also been locked,” said a middle-aged man.
A foreign national also expressed his disgust at the situation. “I am now stuck at the airport. It is amazing that in India in 2010, such things can happen and even the toilets at the airport can be locked.”
Train services were disrupted as the strike supporters squatted on the railway tracks at various stations.
A South Eastern Railway spokesman said the Yashwantpur Express and Kolhapur Express were among the long-distance trains stranded at various stations due to railway blockades.
An Eastern Railway spokesman said train services on all its four divisions Sealdah, Howrah, Asansol and Malda were disrupted due to obstructions at a large number of stations since early morning, “in some cases much earlier than the actual strike call”.
Ten long distance trains arrived while 31 trains, including 2314 Dn. New Delhi-Sealdah Rajdhani Express and 2302 Dn. New Delhi-Howrah Rajdhani Express, were stranded at Asansol and Dhanbad respectively.
Four express trains, including 3504 Dn/3503 Up Asansol-Sealdah Intercity Express, 2302 Up Poorva Express, and 2019 Up/2020 Dn. Howrah-Ranchi Shatabdi Express, were cancelled.
Metro Railway services were normal, but the compartments were virtually empty. In the morning, some strike sponsors forcibly downed the shutters of Dum Dum and Mahanayak Uttam Kumar stations. However, the stations were reopened a little later.
In the absence of vehicular traffic, rickshaw pullers made a killing as they charged exorbitant amounts for ferrying passengers stranded at railway stations. A rickshaw ride from Howrah to Sealdah cost Rs.300, while those travelling from Sealdah to Park Circus had to fork out Rs.400.
No work was done in most of the jute mills and factories, with the pro-strike workers picketing before the gates.
However, the state police extended help to the “show-case” information technology sector in the satellite township of Salt Lake by providing additional security to the people working in that zone. Official sources said there was a sizeable presence of their workforce in the IT hub.
An officer manning the state police control room said there were no reports of any untoward incidents.
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Tags: air passengers, blockade, business establishments, disgust, eastern railway, evening flight, flags and banners, heavy rush, jet airways, kingfisher, middle aged man, morning flights, netaji subhas chandra bose, political parties, private airlines, protesters, public transport, train passengers, train services, west bengal