Normal life came to a standstill in West Bengal on Friday as commercial vehicle operators went on strike to protest the state government's decision to implement a high court order banning all commercial vehicles that are over 15 years old.
Serpentine queues were seen in front of several bus and auto stands across Kolkata. Despite promises by Transport Minister Subhas Chakraborty, very few government buses were seen plying on the roads in and around the city.
"We're facing a harrowing time as we can't get to office due to this transport strike. I was supposed to attend an important meeting in my office but failed to reach there," said Asim Dutta of Howrah district, a bank employee.
A large number of private schools here had already declared a holiday Friday in view of the strike called by at least 17 commercial vehicle operators' groups. Calcutta University and many other educational institutions also cancelled the exams that were scheduled to be held Friday.
Although the strike is indefinite in the Kolkata Metropolitan Area (KMA), operators in the rest of the state have called for a day's strike Friday.
The Calcutta High Court July 2008 ordered a ban on commercial vehicles registered before Jan 1, 1993, from Kolkata and its outskirts. It said the order should be implemented by Dec 31, 2008, in the Kolkata Metropolitan Area (KMA), which includes parts of North and South 24-Parganas, Howrah and Hooghly districts.
Later, the date for imposing the ban was put off till July 31, 2009, following a state government plea. The state government decided to phase out old vehicles from July 25 to implement the court order.