Violence erupts in Bengal as strikers enforce 55, bandh
Kolkata: Incidents of violence and arson were reported from various parts of West Bengal with buses, a police vehicle and government properties vandalised by strikers who attempted to apply the 24-hour bandh on Wednesday.
Protesters blocked a major road in Sujapur region of Malda district, set tyres on fire, ransacked government buses and torched several vehicles, including a police van. They hurled primitive bombs and stones when police tried to control the circumstance.
The authorities then baton-charged the mob, lobbed teargas shells and fired rubber bullets, officials said. In various areas of the state, railroad tracks and roads were blocked, affecting normal life. In East Midnapore district, stones were hurled in buses, after which the protesters clashed with police, leading to many arrests, officials said.
Several buses were vandalised in Cooch Behar district from the protesters. The bandh supporters tried to break past barricades in Kolkata’s Central Avenue area, provoking authorities to use force.
Strikers were held, they said.
A massive police contingent was rushed to the spot to control the situation, officials said.
Railway tracks were blocked at Jadavpur and vehicular movement was interrupted on nearby streets, following which police baton-charged strikers. CPI(M) legislature party leader Sujan Chakraborty was detained for allegedly instigating violence, officials said.
Bombs were found on streets in area of the North 24 Parganas district. Crude bombs were also found on railroad tracks at some areas in the district, they said.
Daily commuters and office-goers throughout the nation had a harrowing time as the amount of vehicles plying on the streets was much less than other days.
At least 175 local trains were cancelled at the Sealdah and Howrah branches of the Eastern Railway because of the blockades.
In Kolkata, authorities buses were plying normally but the amount of private buses was fewer. Metro services were normal in the city and auto-rickshaws and taxis were also seen on the streets.
Heavy police deployment was seen in a number of locations, such as in Tollygunge, Behala, Esplanade and Shyambazar.
Slamming the Left and the Congress for attempting to enforce the bandh, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said that those who do not have any political presence in the state are trying to ruin its economy by following’cheap politics’ of strikes.
She said authorities will take action according to law against the protesters.
Till noon, approximately 55 people were arrested from different parts of the city for allegedly attempting to block vehicles, stall authorities buses or forcibly stop shopkeepers from opening their establishments, a senior officer of the Kolkata Police said.
Flight services were normal in Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport but train services were partly affected.
The Trinamool Congress also took out rallies opposing the strike at some places in north Bengal and urged people to maintain normalcy.
Branches and ATMs of most of the banks in the state remained closed as employees stayed away. The stir was joined by contractual workers. According to the All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA), some 28 lakh cheques worth over Rs 21,000 crore could not be sent for clearing. Staff of the Reserve Bank of India also joined the strike.
The All India Reserve Bank Employees Association (AIRBEA) general secretary Samir Ghosh said strike was successful. Majority of the mills in the country also remained shut. Life in Bengal’s IT hub Sector V was near normal, although there was partial impact in attendance in the first hours due to disruptions in transport, NASSCOM sources said.
95 presence was recorded around by the state government offices, a senior officer claimed. The government has announced that no casual leave for lack, either in the first-half of the day or in the second-half or for the entire day, nor any other leave shall be granted to any employee during the strike.
The strike has been called by trade unions INTUC, AITUC, HMS, CITU, AIUTUC, TUCC, SEWA, AICCTU, LPF, UTUC, along with various sectoral independent federations and institutions.