Trade union protesters block trains, vehicles amid sporadic violence in Bengal during nationwide strike
Agitators blocked railway tracks and road traffic at different places in West Bengal on Tuesday morning as a two-day Left-sponsored shutdown began in the state even as the Mamata Banerjee government made elaborate arrangements to thwart the strike.Updated: Jan 08, 2019 13:34 IST
Protesters clashed with police in several places in West Bengal on Tuesday as workers of central trade unions enforced a two-day shutdown against the Centre’s “anti-worker policies” and other issues across the country.
The Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS), Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), the workers’ arm of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and All India United Trade Union Centre (AIUTUC), among others are participating in the shutdown on Tuesday and Wednesday. The Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh-affiliated Bhartiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) has opted out.
Communist Party of India (Marxist) central committee member Rabin Deb accused police and activists of ruling Trinamool Congress of attacking Left workers in places such as Sodepur, Asansol and Jamuria.
“The police indulged in excesses. Police arrested our workers even when they were standing on the pavement and yet to start any agitation,” Deb, who pointed out West Bengal and Kerala were the two states where the effects of the shutdown were the most prominent, said.
Live updates here: Protesters block vehicles and trains, many detained in Bengal
State Congress president Somen Mitra announced that they had moral support for the strike though the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) opposed it. State education minister and Trinamool Congress secretary general Partha Chatterjee, however, said the strike has been “foiled by the people”.
“It is a tactic of the bandh supporters to create a disturbance at a few spots and claim that the entire state has been paralysed,” remarked Trinamool Congress secretary general and Bengal education minister Partha Chatterjee.
Agitators also blocked railway tracks and road traffic in several parts of the state and vandalised a bus at Garia in the southern fringes of Kolkata.
Train services came to a halt in Madhyamgram, Hasnabad-Bongaon, Krishnagar, Duttapukur and Lakshmikantapur stations under Sealdah division. At Sodepur in North 24 Parganas, protesters threw banana leaves on the overhead wires to disrupt train movement. Trains were also blocked in Samudragarh station of East Burdwan district. Roadblocks were erected in the railway town of Kharagpur in West Midnapore district.
Protesters allegedly attacked a school bus and beat up its driver in Barasat. In Kolkata, most schools were open and attendance was reported to be near normal in the morning.
In south Kolkata, police detained leader of the Left parties in state assembly Sujan Chakraborty and several Left workers after he led a procession of protesters in Jadavpur and blocked an arterial road.CITU leader Anadi Sahu was also detained from Moulali crossing in Kolkata where he was leading a protest rally.
Traffic was normal on National Highway 2 connecting Kolkata and Delhi. Members of Students’ Federation of India (SFI) staged an agitation at the gates of Presidency University on College Street in north Kolkata.
Jadavpur became a major point of activity of the strike supporters. While agitators blocked the tracks at Jadavpur railway station, another section of them blocked the arterial Raja Subodh Chandra Mallick Road about 300 metres away. Rapid Action Force personnel were deployed to disperse the agitators at the station.
In Siliguri, the state’s second largest city, the protesters organised a big procession. But the trading hub in the city was open, though the roads had fewer vehicles compared to those on a normal working day. There was a mixed response in the tea plantations of the state.
“Of the 87 tea gardens in Darjeeling hills, 30 are closed. Most of the closed gardens are in Mirik valley,” Saman Pathak, former Rajya Sabha MP from the CPI(M) and Darjeeling district chief of CITU, said. The state government went all out to foil the two-day general strike called by central trade unions on January 8 and January 9.
Last week, the state finance department issued a notification directing that no one will be granted leave for four continuous days from January 7 to January 10 with certain exceptions. The government also made it clear that in case of absence on any of the four days others than those covered under the exceptions like pre-approved leaves or medical emergency, employees will not be paid salary for the days they are absent.
The attendance at the state secretariat is reported to be 92%. Chief minister Mamata Banerjee has said though they opposed the policies of the Union government that the strike is supposed to protest, her Trinamool Congress is against shutdowns and she would not allow disruption of normal life.
According to state transport minister Suvendu Adhikari, the government would ensure that 500 additional buses will be on the roads during the strike.
“We held meetings with private bus owners and taxi unions to ensure normal vehicle flow on the bandh days. We have assured them that the administration will take all precaution to prevent damage of property. In case of damage, they will be compensated,” he said on Monday.
Metro Railway authorities have arranged for night stay of some of their employees. “If in case if there is an excessive rush on the bandh days, we would run additional trains,” Metro spokesperson Indrani Banerjee said.