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Twin cities frozen in time
Forced to bite bandh bullet

Bhubaneswar/Cuttack, Feb. 20: For Arijit Nayak, a software engineer working in New Delhi, the day could not have begun on a worse note. As soon as he landed at Biju Patnaik Airport here around 9.45am, he was stuck.

There was no public transport in sight that he could hire to reach his home in Cuttack. His family members, who were expected to pick him up, could not make it on time.

The plight of Nayak was symptomatic of the majority today as the two-day trade union strike against anti-people policies of the UPA government hit life in the twin cities.

The strike paralysed day-to-day life in Bhubaneswar completely, but evoked mix response in Cuttack. The unavailability of autorickshaws, city buses and private buses inconvenienced many like Nayak.

Not only bus services, train services too were badly affected leaving hundreds of passengers stranded at the city railway station for several hours. Though the authorities of the city bus service and private bus operators had yesterday declared that buses would ply as usual, not a single bus operated from Barmunda bus terminal and Master Canteen Square. More than 20,000 autorickshaws plying in the city remained off the roads as they had decided to support the 48-hour bandh called by seven trade unions active in the state.

The effect of the bandh was so intense that most of passengers scheduled to board flights from Biju Patnaik Airport were dropped in the early morning by hotels and travel agents, which resulted in a number of passengers waiting outside the airport for several hours. Passengers who landed at the airport were seen asking for lifts from two-wheelers.

Banking services were completely paralysed in the twin cities. More than 200 branches of various banks remained closed in Cuttack, and more than 300 branches in Bhubaneswar downed shutters.

All cheque clearing counters remained closed, adding to the woes of residents. Bank employees were seen picketing in front of their respective branches. Sources said all the banks in twin cities conduct business transactions of Rs 1,250 crore a day.

Agitators were seen to be in a rebellious mood as they attacked some private vehicles in the city. Some in smaller groups attacked around 20 cars and broke their windows near Ram Mandir Square and outside the railway station. Some protesters stopped motorcycles in their tracks in various parts of the city.

Though only a handful of petrol pumps were closed early in the morning, later in the day, almost all were shut down. Petrol pumps are also likely to remain closed tomorrow.

“The government has not promised to provide protection. So, we are planning to close the petrol pumps on Thursday also,” said general secretary of the Utkal Petroleum Dealers’ Association Sanjay Lath.

Trade union leaders said the agitation would continue tomorrow. “This government has adopted all kinds of anti-people policies and we will keep fighting against them,” said Naba Kishore Mohanty, a trade union leader in the state.

Cuttack-Bhubaneswar police detained more than 300 protesters from various places in the city. Deputy commissioner of police Nitinjeet Singh said that as the Assembly session was on, it was difficult to provide adequate security for the bandh.

“But all our policemen and teams kept patrolling across the city to prevent any unpleasant situation,” said Singh.