West Bengal comes to a halt due to shutdown, strike (Lead)

September 21st, 2012 - 12:35 am ICT by IANS  

Kolkata, Sep 20 (IANS) Life virtually came to a halt in West Bengal Thursday due to the Bharatiya Janata Party’s shutdown call and the Left-sponsored general strike in the state.

However, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee claimed the situation was “normal” and termed the shutdown and strike as “not successful”.

Though flight movement was normal, rail and road communication was disrupted, educational institutions did not open and business establishments were mostly closed. Shops and market places either remained closed or were open in only a few pockets in the state.

But the chief minister said attendance in government offices was more than usual.

“While coming to the secretariat I saw the situation was normal. The attendance in government offices has been between 89-90 percent, which is higher than usual.

“Our government is opposed to strikes and shutdowns and the people too have now rejected the politics of strikes in the state. This is a new dawn in the state,” Banerjee said here.

Private offices however recorded thin attendance.

Suburban train services were hit with opposition activists squatting on the railway tracks in various stations under Eastern and South Eastern Railways. However, several long distance trains plied, though after inordinate delays.

Streets in Kolkata wore a deserted look, as people generally preferred to stay indoors. Private bus services and taxis were almost non-existent, though a few government-run buses could be seen on the roads.

The Kolkata Metro Railway services were normal, but a spokesperson said there were very few commuters.

Flight movement at the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport was also normal. Some of the airlines combined a few flights to same destinations. Only two Indigo flights stood cancelled.

Police rounded up 710 shutdown and strike supporters at different places in the state for picketing, and trying to obstruct traffic, said Banerjee.

There were reports from the city and the districts of clashes between supporters of ruling Trinamool Congress and the opposition, though police did not confirm these.

City Police Joint Commissioner Jawed Shamim said the situation was “peaceful”.

Banerjee said that the already financially burdened state could not afford a strike as it caused a loss of over Rs.200 crore.

“Although we support the issues on which the strike was called, we do not want strikes and shutdowns in our state. We have had enough of the politics of strikes,” she said.

Led by its chairman Biman Bose and leader of opposition Surjya Kanta Mishra, the Left Front took out a large procession from central Kolkata’s Moulali-Mallickbazar.

“People have supported this strike spontaneously to protect their own future. If the government does not roll back its decisions, there will be a bigger movement in the coming days,” Bose said.

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