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Open & shut case
- Test, tech in siege times

Business as usual in some pockets, business less than usual in the rest. Friday marked a tentative turning point for a city under bandh siege.

Despite the sparsely-populated streets and the downed shutters, Calcutta was a city bustling with activity far more than on any major bandh in recent memory.

The classroom proved a nursery of normalcy, as over 500 state-aided schools hosted selection exams in the run-up to Madhyamik and Higher Secondary 2005. Sources said exams had to be postponed in only two institutions in Tollygunge for poor attendance.

The MBBS and Ll.M exams of Calcutta University also went off without a hitch.

The say-no-to-bandh bandwagon was steered by Infocom 2004, the largest IT exposition in the east. Well-attended conference sessions at ITC Sonar Bangla and stalls at Salt Lake stadium boosted the image of Bengal meaning business.

If the interactive session with Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee was the high point at the Bypass hotel, outside, in the stadium, 'nearly 10,000 visitors' did the rounds of the tech stalls.

Also on the Bypass, the Indian Pharmaceutical Congress saw 4,000 delegates turn up for its annual function at Science City. 'We were ready for any eventuality and escorted the delegates to the venue without any trouble,' said a spokesperson.

If the Bypass was abuzz with activity, in the heart of town, Rani Rashmoni Avenue-Government Place (East) was overrun for 20 minutes by more than 2,500 physically-challenged people assembled on World Disabled Day. Later, also during bandh hours, a special show of the Russian circus was organised at Netaji Indoor Stadium for about 5,000 youngsters and 200 servicemen to mark the special day.

The thumbs down to the bandh call was far less emphatic from the city's organised retail sector.

The fear factor, fuelled by warnings and morning shows of strength from bandh activists, forced most big stores to play it safe till afternoon.

Pantaloons' stay-open bid was foiled when Trinamul activists forced shutters down at the Gariahat store in the morning. The Camac Street store and Big Bazaar on VIP Road lifted shutters 'at 10.30 sharp'.

The restaurant trade reported sluggish business during the day. 'But at least everybody stayed open and that's a good sign,' said S.S. Kothari, president, Hotel & Restaurants Association of Eastern India.

At City Centre, 100-odd employees stayed overnight for the Salt Lake complex to open at 10.30 am. All halls in central and north Calcutta were open on bandh day, said Arijit Dutta, president, Eastern India Motion Picture Association.

The three-day Rotary International centennial celebrations got underway on Friday. 'The bandh did not have any effect on our programme,' said Shekhar Mehta, organising committee chairman. Nearly 300 delegates from 14 countries arrived for the celebrations.

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