Trinamul shutdown brings West Bengal to a halt (Lead)

April 21st, 2008 - 6:39 pm ICT by admin  

Kolkata, April 21 (IANS) Train services in West Bengal were hit and schools and colleges were closed Monday during a daylong strike over rising food prices. With security in mind, Rahul Gandhi, his sister Priyanka and Shah Rukh Khan cancelled their flights. The Trinamul Congress and the Socialist Unity Centre of India (SUCI) had jointly called the 12-hour strike, which was later reduced by two hours.

“Priyanka Vadra, Rahul Gandhi and Shah Rukh Khan have cancelled their flights for security reasons,” Kolkata Police Commissioner Gautam Mohan Chakraborty told IANS.

The celebrities had flown to Kolkata Sunday to witness and cheer for the Indian Premier League (IPL) match at the Eden Gardens.

“Train services were badly affected in the Howrah and Sealdah divisions. Most trains were cancelled. Many long-distance trains were stopped at different railway stations,” said Eastern Railway spokesperson Samir Goswami.

All schools and colleges were closed and Calcutta University had to postpone its bachelor degree exams.

Although government and private offices were open, attendances were thin. At the state secretariat Writers Building, only about 15 percent employees turned up for work, informed sources said.

Private buses and autos were off the road. Although public transport buses were plying, they were stopped at several places.

Trinamul supremo Mamta Banerjee later reduced the 12-hour shutdown by two hours.

“We will not stop shopkeepers from opening their shops after 4 p.m. The 6 a.m.-6 p.m. shutdown has been called on behalf of the people as a protest against price rise. But we cannot afford to carry on with our protest at the expense of their bread and butter. Hence, we have decided to reduce the shutdown by two hours,” she said.

Chakraborty said about 50 political demonstrations were held in the city.

Kolkata’s Metro Railway service was not hit by the strike. Also, no flights were delayed or cancelled, according to an official at the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International (NSCBI) Airport here.

“The airport is overloaded with passengers arriving hours before their actual schedule in the fear of missing the flight. Some of them arrived Sunday night as well,” an airport official said.

Police pickets were posted at all major crossings like Golpark, Hazra crossing, Shyambazar and Esplanade.

According to police sources, around 150 Trinamul activists were arrested at Purbasthali in Burdwan district.

Said West Bengal IT Minister Debesh Das: “The IT hub at Salt Lake Sector-V in northeastern Kolkata has been kept out of this shutdown.”

The industrial sectors of Burdwan, Haldia in East Midnapore district and the tea gardens in North Bengal were also not affected.

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