Trade strike partially hits normal life in West Bengal
Kolkata, Jan 8 : Normal life was partially hit in West Bengal on Tuesday as sporadic incidents of vandalism and disruptions were reported from various areas during the central trade unions' 48-hour nationwide strike in protest against the "pro-corporate, anti-national and anti-people" policies of the Narendra Modi government.
Public transport was disrupted for some time as strike supporters put up rail and road blockades at various places since morning.
A number of senior Left leaders including CPI-M's Sujan Chakraborty and CITU state secretary Anadi Sahu were detained while picketing in Kolkata.
They were released later.
The state Left leadership accused the Trinamool Congress government of indirectly supporting the Central government's activities by opposing the strike here and claimed that the Trinamool and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have a secret understanding.
"The Trinamool Congress government in Bengal would not allow any protest against the Modi government's anti-people policies. The Trinamool and the BJP make a public show of opposing each other, but they help each other covertly. The Bengal government is backing the atrocities of the Modi government by opposing the strike," Left Front Chairman Biman Basu claimed.
He also accused the police of deliberately beating up prominent Left leaders before arresting them to terrorise the strike supporters and common people.
Train services were disrupted both in Howrah and Sealdah divisions of the Eastern Railway and South Eastern Railway.
Strike supporters put up blockades at a number of stations in East and West Bardhaman, Birbhum, Hoogly, North and South 24 Parganas districts and obstructed train movement.
In Kolkata, many public and private buses were seen plying on the roads. The strike supporters ransacked a number of buses and trucks and demonstrated on busy city streets including the Central Avenue by torching tyres.
A group of Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC) activists, who lent moral support to the trade strike, demonstrated inside an underground Metro rail station in the Maidan area, temporarily disrupting the services.
Despite the strike, the state 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. Percentage of attendance in state-run schools and colleges was also significantly high.
CITU state president Subhas Mukherjee called the strike successful on the first day and vowed to hold full-fledged strike even on Wednesday.
"According to our reports, all major industries including mining, tea and jute, banking and insurance sectors and postal and telecom departments were significantly impacted by the trade strike. Workers, labours and common people have spontaneously participated in the strike. Our programmes will continue tomorrow (Wednesday) as well," Mukherjee told IANS.
Trinamool Congress Secretary General Partha Chatterjee termed the strike as irrelevant and said the party is against any form of strike which leads to wastage of man hours.
"There are hardly 100-200 people in their rallies. It is irrelevant. Their leaders are intentionally 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 34 years of Left rule in Bengal that it has lost significance among people. We opposed the culture of strike even when we were in the opposition," he claimed.
Trinamool leader and state Food and Supplies Minister Jyotipriyo Mullick declared his party will oppose the strike on Wednesday "in a more organised manner" and said anybody trying to impose the strike will be beaten up.
Over 10,000 police personnel were deployed in the city along with an additional force of 5,000 to prevent any untoward incident.
The state BJP leadership claimed that common people have rejected the strike and accused the Trinamool Congress of supplying oxygen to the left parties in Bengal.
"All the major roads were functional and there were enough buses and other modes of public transport available. In some places some left leaders and activists are creating commotion. Trinamool is deliberately trying to supply oxygen, so that CPI-M can revive in the state," Bengal BJP Chief Dilip Ghosh said.