Bandh evokes mixed response in north Bengal

Report by: 
PRASHANT ACHARYA, SOUMYA DE SARKAR, ANUP JAYSWAL
SILIGURI, MALDA
8 Jan 2019

Except sporadic incidents of violence in a few regions the first day of nationwide industrial strike remained peaceful in Siliguri and its adjacent areas.
As many as 10 central trade unions have called for the 48-hour nationwide strike to protest against the alleged anti-people policies of the Centre. The trade unions are demanding minimum wages and social security schemes, among others.
At about 12 noon the protesters organised processions  in Siliguri, Bagdogra and other areas but police detained CPIM leaders in Siliguri, Bagdogra and New Jalpaiguri areas.
The picketers started blocking raods, stopping vehicles including school buses and government buses in Siliguri. Gopal Roy, CPIM councillor of Siliguri Municipal Corporation, CITU leader from NJP Diwas Choubey, CPIM leader from Bagdogra Shital Dutta and Jisu Dutta along with 15 other supporters were arrested from Bagdogra.
The shopping hub in Siliguri remained open, maximum shops in the market area were open but the vehicular movement was less compared to normal days.
Government buses from North Bengal State Transport Corporation were plying in maximum numbers to ensure unhindered movement of vehicles.
The bandh had a little impact on Bagdogra airport as  private vehicles carried passengers heading for the airport.
Saman Pathak, former Rajya Sabha MP from the CPI (M) and Darjeeling district chief of CITU said, “Tea  gardens in the plains and Dooars were closed and out of 87 tea gardens in Darjeeling hills, 30 are closed. Most of the closed gardens are in Mirik region.
CPIM veteran Silguri Mayor Ashok Bhattacharya said, “The bandh is successful not only in plains but also in hills. I have never seen such effect of bandh in past 7 to 8 years. Work has been suspended in Siliguri Municipal Corporation except emergency units.''
On the other hand Trinamool Congress marched rally in Siliguri along Hill Cart Road in the afternoon for the support to make Brigade Rally a grant success scheduled on 19th January. The rally was led by  state minister for tourism Gautam Deb.

The country-wide strike convened by Left and Congress backed trade unions left mild to moderate effects on the first day in Malda and North Dinajpur. While most of the shops were closed and a section of vehicles did not get on roads, government offices and state transport operated almost regularly.
In Malda almost all shops were closed in English Bazaar. At rural areas a few shops were seen open. Small number of private buses was found plying along respective routes. Other small vehicles carrying office-goers and school teachers were not stopped by the bandh supporters.
As a section of bank employees’ unions joined the strike, many of the banks were closed. Regular work was disrupted in Malda head post office also.
However, attendance in state government offices, schools and colleges was quite normal as claimed by DM, Malda Kaushik Bhattacharya.
Members of different trade unions led mainly by district CPM leaders picketed at various places. Kaushik Mishra, a member of district CPM secretariat claimed that the strike was 100 per cent successful in Malda on the first day.
In addition to the strike, the e-rickshaw drivers’ union also observed a 12-hour strike today raising several demands. As a result only a few such rickshaws were seen plying in the district today.
“State government forced private bus owners to run buses. But those buses were empty as the common people voluntarily supported the strike,” said Malda CPM secretary Ambar Mitra.
He also echoed the allegation of trade unions that Trinamool Congress was in tacit understanding with BJP to foil today’s strike. “However, their conspiracy did not work out as the people supported the bandh,” he said.
District Trinamool president Moazzem Hossain, on the contrary, claimed that the bandh was rejected by common people. “At some places the bandh supporters tried to enforce the bandh but they were driven away by the common people,” Hossain said.
In North Dinajpur a bus rushing to South Dinajpur was attacked by the bandh supporters. The wind-screen of the bus was broken when some bandh supporters pelted stones at it.
Arnab Ghosh, SP, Malda said, “ A few persons were detained for picketing in front of government offices. But no one was arrested.