A bandh supporter ties a Citu flag to a railing in the domestic terminal of the airport. This was the first time the bandh brigade held the airport to ransom in this manner. Picture by Sanat Kumar Sinha
A boy who underwent brain surgery to remove 65 small tumours and needs to see his doctors in Bangalore immediately lay on the floor of Howrah station for seven hours after missing his train because of Wednesday’s shutdown.
The Citu zealots who were ensuring that nothing moved during the bandh couldn’t care less about 12-year-old Supan Biswas’s suffering, but two Calcuttans showed that they did.
Senior CPM leader Rabin Deb arranged for him to be admitted to Howrah General Hospital for the night and A.K. Bhaumik, a senior Exide executive who saw the boy’s plight on television, stepped in with three air tickets to Bangalore for him and his parents.
The Biswas family will board Indigo’s 7.30am flight on Thursday morning.
“Supan’s condition is deteriorating because of the humidity,” his father Panchanan Biswas said, using a hand fan to ease his son’s discomfort.
That was before he had been moved to hospital for a saline drip and oxygen. The family had reached Howrah early in the morning after an eight-hour journey from Murshidara, in Birbhum, and was scheduled to board the Yeshwantpur Express. When the train was cancelled, Panchanan had no clue what to do.
In another part of the city, Bhaumik was watching television when he saw a shot of Supan lying on the station floor with a pipe in his nose.
“I bought the air tickets and got in touch with them (the family) soon after. This is the least I could have done,” he told Metro.
While Supan found two Good Samaritans, not everyone who suffered because of the bandh was lucky. H.P. Vijaywargee, a resident of Kota in Rajasthan, and his family arrived in the city on Tuesday evening by train and were to board a flight to Guwahati the next morning.
“All of us in this group of 10 were to fly for the first time and we were excited. But the trip has been spoilt by this bandh,” Vijaywargee, a supervisor in the Nuclear Power Corporation of India, said. “We last had a full meal at 7pm on Tuesday.”
As many as 290 flights to and from Calcutta were cancelled. Only five commercial flights — three domestic and one each to Dhaka and London — took off. One flight arrived in the morning.
A group of 75-odd Citu supporters with red flags and sticks was positioned at Gate number 1 of the airport from 6am. No vehicle could go past them till 10am.
Around 7am, the red brigade drove out airline employees who had reported for duty out of the domestic and international terminals. Just in case someone sneaked back in, they switched off the lights and air-conditioning. Stranded passengers walked up and down, looking lost.
No bus, taxi and autorickshaw was on the road during any time of the day. Metro Railway, which usually functions even on bandh days, was shut, too. Mohan Verma, an employee of the defence ministry, said: “Nothing is plying; there is no mode of transport. The Metro is usually an option.”
At Dum Dum station, overnight staff were driven out and those who reported for work in the morning were turned back. “Trains operated between Tollygunge and Girish Park till 9.30am. We had to suspend all services later,” a Metro Railway official said.
Foreign tourists enjoyed walking down deserted streets but were surprised that a city could be shut down like this. “We were told it’s just an industrial strike. Why is everything shut?” asked Barbara Amaranta, a doctor visiting the city with 10 others from Italy.