Strike cripples Bengal; hundreds arrested
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Strike cripples Bengal; hundreds arrested

Singur issue brings Trinamool Congress and the Congress together after several years.

india Updated: Oct 09, 2006 15:26 IST

Hundreds of people were arrested on Monday across West Bengal as a 12-hour shutdown called by the Trinamool Congress to protest the forcible acquisition of fertile farmlands in Singur for a Tata Motors car project and police atrocities brought life to a halt.

Train services have been disrupted since morning with the bandh supporters blocking railway tracks in various places, especially in Howrah, and a few private buses and vehicles plied on the roads. Flight services were, however, not hit.

Over 70 people have been arrested in Kolkata, police officials said.

The city's Metro railway remained unaffected by the bandh, though the passenger traffic was minimal, a Metro official said.

Schools and colleges were shut and government offices reported thin attendance. Though state-run buses plied there were not too many passengers.

However, work was unaffected in the state's IT hub - Sector V, in Salt Lake.

City police joined their counterparts in adjoining North and South 24-Parganas districts to ensure that Sector V is not affected by the shutdown. Special forces have been deployed in and around the tech township to allow easy movement of the industry staff.

A cell has been set up at Bidhannagar (North) police station exclusively to help IT professionals impeded by the shutdown.

The shutdown, being supported by the Congress, evoked full to partial response in West Bengal.

Air traffic went on according to schedule at the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International (NSCBI) airport in Kolkata since morning.

Commuters however had a tough time in reaching their destinations and many had to leave home in the wee hours to avoid the shutdown, which began at 6.00 am.

They were also fleeced by cabbies.

In the industrial zones of Bengal, especially Haldia, the attendance was thin though work was not much affected.

Meanwhile, reports of clashes between Trinamool Congress and the ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) poured in from some areas.

Congress supporters too demonstrated in Howrah Bridge.

Police, however, said there was no major report of violence so far.

In the city, more than 5,000 policemen have been deployed to tackle the bandh. Over a hundred pickets have been set up across Kolkata and special forces guarded the government offices.

The West Bengal government has assured that Tata Motors would be able to start their small car project by this year at Singur in Hooghly district, where the company has identified about 1,000 acres of land for the project.

"I think Tata Motors will get the land and will be able to start their activity within this year. We ask the opposition to come to terms and they should realise and understand the importance of a Tata Motors factory in West Bengal," State Industry Minister Nirupam Sen had said recently after an all-party meeting called by Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya to pacify political opponents.

Faced with mounting agitation, Bhattacharya had held out an olive branch to the Opposition on the festering issue. Bhattacharya's conciliatory note followed an ultimatum from Tata Motors to shift the project to another state and mounting protests by the political rivals.

The situation aggravated in Singur after police resorted to merciless baton-charge on agitating farmers, including women, on the September 25 night when Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee had surrounded the block development officer's office in protest.

Mamata Banerjee, who fell sick after the police action at Singur in which she alleged she was assaulted, is in hospital.

Singur issue has brought the Trinamool Congress and the Congress together after several years and the Congress central leadership also offered moral help to Mamta Banerjee.

First Published: Oct 09, 2006 13:17 IST