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West Bengal comes to a standstill

Special Correspondent

Left Front asks Trinamool Congress to call off bandh proposed for Friday; it’s unnecessary, says Biman Bose

— Photo: Sushanta Patronobish

Aftermath of the hike: The Howrah station in Kolkata wears a deserted look during a 12-hour bandh called by the West Bengal Left Front in protest against the hike in prices of petroleum products, on Thursday.

KOLKATA: Normal life was affected here and in the districts of West Bengal on Thursday during a 12-hour strike called by the ruling Left Front in protest against the Centre’s decision to raise the prices of petroleum products.

The city streets wore a deserted look. Offices, markets, commercial establishments and educational institutions remained closed and public transport was off the roads. Metro services were suspended.

In all, 39 trains were cancelled, some rescheduled and several others detained at various places across the State where bandh supporters demonstrated on the tracks. Air services to and from the city’s airport were affected. A large number of passengers were left stranded at the railway stations and the airport.

Road blocks were put up at some places but there was no report of any untoward incident, Inspector-General of Police (Law and Order) Raj Kanojia said.

The strike was near total in the industrial sector. Jute mills and manufacturing units were closed and work ceased in most tea estates, the leadership of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions said.

In a bid towards austerity, the State government has decided that pool cars can be requisitioned on Saturdays and Sundays only for very important work and with the special permission of the secretaries of the departments concerned. An order to this effect is to be issued shortly by the State’s Finance Secretary.

Biman Bose, chairman of the Left Front Committee, described the strike as “total and spontaneous” but added that he was sorry for the inconvenience caused to the travelling public.

He also appealed to the leadership of the Trinamool Congress to call off the party’s 12-hour bandh proposed for Friday.

He said it was “unnecessary” as the strike observed during the day had evoked a spontaneous response from the people. Party chief Mamata Banerjee said the Left Front-sponsored strike was a “drama” enacted by the “Communist Party of India (Marxist) that had taken 100 per cent advantage from the Centre and which was in the know of the decision to hike prices well in advance.”

The strike, she added, had been “designed to hoodwink the people.” Mr. Bose refuted the contention that the strike had been called by the CPI(M) and reiterated that the decision had been taken jointly by all the constituents of the Left Front.

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