The countrywide shutdown called by trade unions against the central government's economic measures impacted normal life in West Bengal, with clashes between the ruling Trinamool Congress and the opposition Left Front leaving many people including legislators injured.While the Left Front declared the strike a success, Chief Minister and Trinamool supremo Mamata Banerjee claimed the shutdown was a failure.Altogether 974 people, including 21 from Kolkata, were arrested, Banerjee said.Clashes were reported from various districts, including Murshidabad, Birbhum, North 24 Parganas and Hooghly, in which a former CPI-M parliamentarian and two state legislators were injured and many political party offices vandalised.
While former Communist Party of India-Marxist MP Moinul Hassan along with 10 other people were injured in a clash in Baharampur town of Murshidabad district, party legislator Dhiren Bagdi along with his security guard were roughed up allegedly by Trinamool activists in Mohammadbazar of Birbhum district.Hassan, who was seen being baton-charged by security personnel, accused police of acting as "Trinamool agents".Marxist legislator Insar Ali Biswas from Hariharpara in Murshidabad was hospitalised with injuries to his face and head."I was leading a procession in support of the shutdown when a gang of goons armed with iron rods and sticks attacked us," Biswas said, accusing police of being inactive.In North Bengal, Siliguri mayor and former state minister Asok Bhattacharya from the CPI-M and the party's Darjeeling district leader Jibesh Sarkar were arrested along with others for trying to enforce the shutdown.
While educational institutions and commercial establishments largely remained closed, the usual bustle on the streets including that in Kolkata was missing as a large number of private buses and the ubiquitous yellow taxis remained off the road.Auto-rickshaws, however, plied in some Kolkata pockets.Public transport, including buses and Metro trains, operated normally but the number of commuters was far lower than on an usual business day.Rail services were also hit after shutdown supporters blocked trains in many areas, railway officials said.
The usual chock-a-bloc suburban trains too wore a near deserted look while people had a harrowing time coming to and from the vital Howrah and Sealdah railway stations due to lack of taxis and even app-based cabs.Banking services were hit by the strike called by trade unions and their affiliated labour organisations to press for increasing minimum wage to Rs.15,000, representation to unions in labour reform process and providing wages to contractual workers at par with regular workers."The response from both public sector and private sector banks is overwhelming and all banking operations have taken a hit today," Bank Employees Federation of India national general secretary Pradip Biswas told IANS.
"The strike in West Bengal is a total success with 100 percent of employees joining it. The response from both public sector and private sector banks is overwhelming."Led by Left Front chairman Biman Bose and Leader of Opposition Surjya Kanta Mishra among others, 17 Left parties took out a joint rally in support of the strike.
"The Trinamool has employed all means including unleashing goons and spreading anarchy to foil the strike. Police has been used as an instrument of violence and fear to throttle the voice of democracy," Bose said.The Mamata Banerjee government had issued a circular declaring absence of government employees on the day would be treated as 'dies non' and no salary would be admissible.Slamming the Left for indulging in politics of disruption, Banerjee said attendance in government offices was more than normal.
"The strike has failed to evoke any response. I can proudly say the attendance of government employees in the city was 93 percent as against the 91 percent on normal days, while attendance in the districts was 97 percent," she said.The chief minister also said the Left has made it a habit of calling shutdowns and the politics of disruption was reflective of its "political bankruptcy".While the Left Front including CPI-M state secretary Mishra accused the Trinamool government of using violent tactics to foil the strike, the chief minister asserted that police acted in a "very restrained manner".