Strike gets partial response in West Bengal

Kolkata, Feb 20 - A two-day nationwide strike-call by 11 central trade unions to press for a ten-point charter of demands evoked partial response in West Bengal Wednesday.

Flight services were normal, trains plied despite minor disruptions, but buses, taxis and auto rickshaws largely kept off the roads. Many people stayed indoor in the capital city and the districts.

Banking services have been crippled, but municipal markets remained open, while shops remained shut in many areas.

Sources at the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport said all flights operated as per schedule, and that there were no cancellations.

An Air India spokesman said: "The passenger load is more or less as per booking. May be, in some sectors there is a marginal drop".

Attendance was normal in state government offices, particularly the state secretariat Writers' Buildings, with many employees staying overnight at their offices in anticipation of trouble getting in to work Wednesday.

The Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress government has declared it will not allow strikes in the state, as it caused heavy financial and economic losses.

It had earlier issued a notification declaring that all government offices should remain open and all the government employees should report to work on the days of the strike. Police urged people Monday to stick to normal schedules, over handheld mikes.

A South Eastern Railway spokesman said train services on almost all sections were normal, though some trains had to be halted due to agitations at Balasore and Jaleswar in Odisha.

Strike supporters disrupted services at one station on the Eastern Railway route, said an Eastern Railway spokesman.

However, people who arrived in Kolkata on trains and flights had problems once they stepped into the metropolis. Taxis and auto-rickshaws largely remained off the roads. Vey few private buses and mini buses hit the streets, while state-run buses were irregular.

But public vehicles got very few passengers. "Almost the entire bus was empty. And roads were free of traffic jams. The situation was strikingly different from normal office days, when roads are choc-a-bloc with people," said a state government employee who attended office.

At Midnapore town, headquarters of West Midnapore district, shops and markets remained closed in some pockets, while only a few buses and autos plied.

"But I did not see any picketing by the strike supporters, which is a departure from the scene we have seen during past strikes," said R. Dutta, a state government employee in Midnapore.

Employees belonging to unions supporting the strikes picketed at the gates of state-run banks, which were shut.

There was heavy police deployment on the roads.

"Everything is normal. Enough police arrangement is there," said city police commissioner Surojit Kar Purokayastha. (IANS)


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