A number of buses were damaged, train movements disrupted due to obstruction on railway tracks, and several highways and vital roads blocked as normal life was partially hit in West Bengal on Wednesday following a 24-hour all India general strike call given by ten central trade unions against central government’s disinvestment policies and scrapping of NPR, CAA and NRC.
Many shops and business establishments remained shut, there was lesser number of people, auto rickshaws and taxis and app-based cabs on the roads, though public and private buses plied normally in the morning hours in Kolkata and other districts.
The ferry services on river Hooghly between Kolkata and Howrah saw largely empty launches, while many private schools had declared holiday for the day fearing trouble, students of various universities including Jadavpur and Presidency staged demonstrations not allowing classes to be held.
The protesters have highlighted a 12-point charter of demands including urgent measures for containing price-rise through universalisation of public distribution system, containing unemployment, strict enforcement of all basic labour laws, stoppage of disinvestment in Central/State public sector units, stoppage of FDI in Railways, Insurance and Defence.
The trade unions have also demanded withdrawal of the Land Acquisition amendment bill/ordinance.
The striking unions picketed before bank branches which were yet to open till the time of writing the report.
With Congress, CPI-M and other Left parties taking out rallies and processions in Kolkata, traffic movement was affected on the vital roads.
Reports of damage to state-owned buses were received from Rathbari of Malda district and Toofanganj of Cooch Behar after protesters forced the passengers to alight, while Left and Trinamool supporters clashed in Agarpara and Madhyamgram of North 24 Parganas district.
Bombs were found at Barasat railway station from under a train which was obstructed by protesters near Hridaypur station on Sealdah-Barasat section of eastern railway. GRP personnel deactivated the bombs.
Reports of periodic rail obstructions have also come from many stations including Rishra, Konnagar, Shyamnagar, Champahati, Mathurapur, Diamond Harbur and Jadavpur. At Dum Dum station, the protesters forcibly closed the ticket counter for some time.
Central Trade unions INTUC, AITUC, HMS, CITU, AIUTUC, TUCC, SEWA, AICCTU, LPF, UTUC as also various sectoral independent federations and associations are participating in the nationwide strike, which has received support from 60 student organisations, while 175 peasant and agricultural labourers’ unions have given a call for grameen Bharat bandh in support of their specific demands.
The protesters have claimed that 25 crore people would take part in the nationwide strike.
In West Bengal, chief minister Mamata Banerjee government has opposed the bandh call even while expressing support to the issues. The state government has also come out with a memorandum asking all its employees to report for duty, and decreeing no casual leave would be given between January 7-9.
The government order said employees remaining absent without approval from their higher ups and unable to provide satisfactory and justified reasons would be slapped with ‘dies-non’ and no salary would be paid to them for the leave period.