KOLKATA: LIFE virtually came to a standstill in West Bengal on September 20 in the 12-hour general strike called by the Left Front in the state. Rail and road communication was disrupted, business establishments were mostly closed. In the government offices, there was very thin attendance despite threat from the state government.
Suburban train services were hit with opposition activists squatting on the railway tracks in various stations under Eastern and South Eastern Railways.
Streets in Kolkata wore a deserted look, as people generally preferred to stay indoors. Private bus services and taxis were almost non-existent, though a few government-run buses were seen on the roads. The Kolkata Metro Railway services were normal, but a spokesperson said there were very few commuters.
There is perceptible response to the call particularly among the small traders and shops. Shops and market places remained closed in most of the areas of the state.
The strike was near total in industrial areas. Factories and manufacturing units remained non functional.
The strike exposed the duplicity of Trinamool Congress. While they vociferously opposed the diesel price hike and the opening up of retail for FDI and decided to come out of the UPA on these issues, the state government and the ruling party came all out against the strike in the state. The chief minister herself issued threats to employees, workers and transporters. TMC activists attacked strike supporters in many places. They tried to forcibly open shops and attack on the road blockades. The people of West Bengal however rejected the terrorisation and strongly registered their protest against the policies of the centre.
Hundreads of processions were organised by the Left parties throughout the state. Led by its chairman Biman Basu and leader of opposition Surjya Kanta Mishra, the Left Front took out a large procession from central Kolkata's Moulali to Mallickbazar.
"People have supported this strike spontaneously to protect their own future. If the government does not roll back its decisions, there will be a bigger movement in the coming days," Basu said.