In her inimitable style, chief minister Mamata Banerjee hit the streets of the city for the major part of Wednesday afternoon, trying to instil work culture in the people on bandh day and conferring with cops on the security arrangements.
But Bengal took a holiday anyway!
Back at Writers’, the chief minister insisted that people had, indeed, foiled the strike, but the deserted streets of Kolkata and the downed shutters of shops in Kolkata and elsewhere told a different tale. True, there were buses and taxis on the road, the Metro ran uninterrupted, local trains plied, but most office-goers stayed away. Except government employees who risked the wrath of the regime. “Today, several people have said no to bandhs. Tomorrow, everyone will say no,” a triumphant chief minister said.
CITU state president, Shyamal Chakrabarty disputed the CM’s statement. “The strike was successful,” he said.
The overall picture of Kolkata on Wednesday was no different from the bandh days of yesteryear. Despite the presence of state buses in large numbers, there were few commuters. Major thoroughfares, usually jammed by vehicles, wore a deserted look. Esplanade, Shyambazar, Hazra and Gariahat saw little traffic. At the Hazra crossing, state transport minister Madan Mitra faced an agitation by bandh supporters.
Yes, the chief minister can claim credit for forcing government employees to ignore the strike and join work — attendance at state offices was indeed impressive. At Writers’, over 85% employees turned up. The strike was near total in the banking industry, with all branches of all banks closed. Even the ATMs were shut down. There were no clearing operations at the head and regional offices of the Reserve Bank of India. Expect a similar scene on Thursday.
Shopping malls and Kolkata Municipal Corporation markets were open, but very few footfalls. Most factories in the Barackpore industrial area, too, were closed. In the DurgapurAsansol belt, factories were open, but attendance was poor. Attendance at the Eastern Coalfields Limited was between 30% and 40%.
Flights from the city’s Dum Dum airport took off and landed on time. And there were enough cabs to ferry passengers to their destination. Salt Lake Sector V, the state’s IT hub, was humming with activity just like any other day.
The bandh had a mixed response in the 192 tea gardens of the Terai and Dooars belt. While most tea gardens in the Terai region of Darjeeling district were closed, the bandh had a partial impact on the tea gardens of Dooars.
The bandh call kept Mamata Banerjee and her ministers busy for most part of the day. From Writers’ Buldings, the CM first headed towards Behala tram depot where she met auto drivers. She then dashed to Hazra, then to Kolkata Municipal Corporation. She then went to Strand Road and visited the Posta wholesale market.
Around 1.30 pm, Mamata reached Hazra Road crossing. She met senior police officials posted there and instructed them to arrange food and water for all the policemen on duty.
“Whenyouknowthatit’satwoday strike and your men have to be on the road for more than 48 hours, you must arrange for food and water. Take Rs. 2,000 from me and get lunch for them,” the chief minister told joint commissioner of police (traffic) Supratim Sarkar and DC South Vishal Garg.