• Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Trade strike hits Bengal

Kolkata, Jan 8 : Normal life was partly hit in West Bengal on Tuesday during the 48-hour nationwide strike called by central trade unions in protest against the "pro-corporate, anti-national and anti-people" policies of the Modi government.

Sporadic incidents of vandalism and disruptions were reported from some parts of the state since earlier in the day with the strike supporters blocking rail and road traffic.

A number of senior Left leaders including CPI-M's Sujan Chakraborty were detained while picketing at various places in Kolkata.

The state's Left leadership accused the Trinamool Congress government of indirectly supporting the Centre by opposing the strike and claimed that the ruling party had a secret nexus with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

"The Trinamool Congress government in Bengal would not allow any voice of protest against the Narendra Modi government's anti-people policies. Trinamool and the BJP pretend to oppose each other on the outside, but internally they have a nexus. The state government is actually backing the atrocities of the Modi government by opposing the strike," Left Front Chairman Biman Basu claimed.

Train services in the state were disrupted both in Howrah and Sealdah divisions of the Eastern Railway and South Eastern Railway.

Strike supporters put up blockades in a number of stations including Belgharia, Khardah, Durgapur and Asansol and clashed with the police in the suburbs in South 24 Parganas district's Lakhikantapur, Canning; North 24 Pargans' Madhaygram, Hasnabad and Barasat.

Agitators also obstructed train movement in Hooghly's Rishra, Uttarpara, East Burdwan's Samudragarh, Birbhum's Rampurhat, West Burdwan's Durgapur in Howrah division of Eastern Railway and also at Uluberia in South Eastern Railway.

In Kolkata, many public and private buses were seen plying even as strike supporters ransacked many buses and trucks and took out rallies at Jadavpur, Sovabazar and Sealdah areas.

As the day progressed, Left activists demonstrated on busy city streets, including at the Central Avenue, and torched tyres.

Despite the strike, the government offices and institutions in the state functioned normally. The attendance at the state secretariat Nabanna was around 92 per cent till 12 p.m. Attendance in state-run schools and colleges was also high.

Trinamool Congress Secretary General Partha Chatterjee termed the strike as irrelevant and said the party was against any form of strike which led to wastage of man hours.

"There is hardly 100 to 200 people in each of their rallies. It is irrelevant. Their leaders are deliberately engaging in scuffles with the police to get arrested," Chatterjee said.

"We want protests against the Centre but holding strike is not the right way. There were so many strikes during the 32 years of the Left regime in Bengal that it has lost its significance among people. We opposed the culture of strike even when we were in the opposition," he said.

The state government has issued a circular clarifying that its offices would remain open on strike days and no leave would be granted. It also urged banks and educational institutions to remain open.

Over 10,000 police personnel were deployed in the city along with an additional force of 5,000.