Bandh enforcers downed the shutters at Gitanjali station till noon on Tuesday. Picture by Aranya Sen
The bandh brigade brought the city to a standstill on Tuesday but their writ didn’t run underground.
Metro Railways, under Mamata Banerjee’s railway ministry, plied its trains on schedule, despite passenger footfall being reduced to a trickle. “Till 6pm, the footfall was only 22,469, compared with around 3.5 lakh around the same time other days,” said a Metro official.
The CPM-backed unions, however, tried every trick in the disruption dossier to keep commuters from taking the Metro. At Dum Dum, they tried misleading the people by saying that Metro services had been halted. Some even appealed to commuters to join cause with them. “They explained with folded hands that the bandh was for people like me,” said Arun Basu, who works in an MBA entrance coaching centre on Sarat Bose Road.
But when the 37-year-old insisted that he had to reach his workplace, the bandh enforcers went back to doing what they do best — flexing muscles. “They forced me out of the station,” said Basu as he started walking towards Shyambazar to take a train.
Outside Kavi Nazrul station (Garia Bazar) M. Iqbal was branded a Trinamul supporter and heckled by bandh enforcers for raising his voice against the shutdown. “The Trinamul Congress has sent out their men to protest the strike and provoke the people against us,” shouted an agitator, pointing towards Iqbal.
“I am not into politics though I have always voted for the CPM. I really needed to take the Metro today,” muttered the Garia resident as he turned back from the station.
Iqbal’s ordeal was shared by several other Metro passengers on the extended route and in Tollygunge. Metro stations under Calcutta police were relatively free from obstructions.
The bandh supporters, however, made exceptions for their own lot.
At Gitanjali (Naktala), when they stopped a woman from entering the station, she pleaded with them for a moment and then fished out her cellphone. One call to a party boss and the shutters were lifted for her to sneak in.
At Tollygunge, not only were commuters stopped from entering the station, those arriving on trains were not allowed to leave. “I had work at the American Consulate. While returning, I was locked in at Tollygunge station. The agitators allowed us to leave only after repeated pleas,” said film-maker Tapan Saha.
“Why did they come out of their homes when they knew about the bandh? Also, with so few passengers, why is Metro running trains so frequently? We are protesting the hike in prices while the railway minister is wasting public money,” said Malay Sikdar, a bandh supporter.