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Bandh hits life in Bengal

Calcutta, Sept 20 (PTI): Normal life in West Bengal was disrupted on Thursday by the bandh called separately by the Left Front and the National Democratic Alliance against the Union government’s decision to allow foreign direct investment in supermarkets.

However, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee claimed that the situation was “normal”.

“I saw that the situation was normal as I was coming to Writers' Buildings,” Banerjee told reporters at the state secretariat.

Incidents of obstruction of train services were reported from both Sealdah and Howrah divisions of Eastern Railway, while eight long-distance trains were detained at different stations of South Eastern railway, railway sources said.

But educational institutions, shops and business establishments were by and large closed in the metropolis.

Banking services were affected, reports said.

Very few private buses and minibuses were on the roads, as also state-run buses and trams. Taxi went off the road as operators began a 72-hour strike demanding an increase in the fares.

Near normal attendance was reported at the Writers' Buildings, the state secretariat, official sources said.

Services of the underground Metro Rail were normal, officials said.

Airport sources said the flight operations were normal except cancellation of the Kolkata-New Delhi and Kolkata-Agartala Indigo flights.

Joint Commissioner of Police, Kolkata, Jawed Shamim, said there was no untoward incident.

Train services in the South Eastern Railway to and from Howrah were disrupted since 8:30 am due to obstruction by protesters at Ramrajatala station, railway sources said.

The Howrah-Pune Duranto Express, left Howrah on time but was stopped by protestors, the sources said. But the Kolkata-bound Rajdhani Express from Delhi reached Howrah station without any hindrance, at around 10:30am.

An Eastern Railway spokesperson said that train services on the Howrah division were disrupted as bandh supporters blocked rail tracks at several stations like at Katwa, Jougram, Agradeep, Ahemedpur, Bagnapara, Bhadreswar and Baidyabati.

Six long-distance trains reached Howrah this morning before the bandh started.

Train services were normal in the Sealdah-Dankuni, Sealdah main line up to Kalyani, Namkhana-Sealdah and Budge Budge-Sealdah sections.

The strike call, given separately by the NDA and Left Front, was to protest FDI in multi-brand retail, diesel price hike and cap on subsidised LPG cylinders.

Finance minister Amit Mitra, who went around most of the departments at the Writers' Buildings, said that attendance was totally normal at the secretariat.

“Bandh culture is changing. People from outside should see this,” he said.

Municipal Affairs minister Firhad Hakim said over 90 per cent attendance was recorded at the secretariat despite the bandh call.

Official sources said that no employee was marked late at the secretariat and were allowed to join duty as and when they reported.


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