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Assam follows strike regimen
- Airport staff agitation affects air services throughout region, but most states ignore bandh

Guwahati, Sept. 29: Another bandh, another day lost.

Much as people rave and rant about the crippling culture of strikes, life in Assam came to a grinding halt ' well, almost ' with residents preferring to shut themselves up in their homes rather than face overbearing bandh enforcers.

The state actually had to ensure not one, but two bandhs ' a 24-hour general strike enforced by an assortment of Left-backed trade unions and a 12-hour bandh called by the People’s Committee for Peace Initiative.

The statewide bandh ' the third this month ' partially affected rail and air services and totally paralysed road transport, business and education.

Sonitpur district remained closed for the third consecutive day because of bandhs called by different organisations.

A strike by Airports Authority of India (AAI) employees against privatisation of airports heaped more agony on travellers.

V. K. Choudhury, regional executive director of the AAI, said Lokapriyo Gopinath Bordoloi international airport operated at “50 to 60 per cent capacity” during the day.

“There was no problem with operations at the airport, but some airlines did cancel their flights,” he said.

Guwahati airport handles 30 flights on an average each day. Today, there were only 14 flights to and from the city.

“Delhi was connected, barring Jet Airways flights. All flights from Calcutta were, however, cancelled,” Choudhury said.

ATR services within the region were normal.

Northeast Frontier Railway spokesperson T. Rabha said most long-distance trains, including Rajdhani Express, were “regulated” at various places because of the bandh. Some short-distance train services, however, operated normally.

“It will take us between two and three days to restore all services,” Rabha said.

In Guwahati, police arrested 60 people for enforcing the bandh. Very few residents ventured out in any case and the city wore a deserted look throughout the day. One of the new flyovers witnessed a television shoot instead of the usual hurly-burly of traffic (picture on left).

All business establishments and educational institutions were closed.

The Left-sponsored general strike evoked a mixed response elsewhere in the region. In Tripura, all government offices except the state secretariat remained closed despite chief secretary R.K. Mathur officially warning employees of penal steps if they did not report for duty.

Only one ATR flight arrived in Agartala from Guwahati. The airport at Singarbil normally handles four-five flights on the Agartala-Calcutta-Guwahati sector.

In Nagaland, banks and post offices were closed for the day.

Manipur remained unaffected except for cancellation of flights to and from Imphal.

Left activists staged a sit-in demonstration in the capital town. Senior CPI leader A.B. Bardhan led the protest.

Business establishments, schools, colleges and government offices functioned normally.

Mizoram, too, was unaffected by the strike.

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