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State bears brunt of Congress strike

Bhubaneswar, Jan. 7: A 12-hour state-wide strike called by the state Congress today demanding dismissal of the Naveen Patnaik government in the wake of Justice M.B. Shah Commission report on the mining scam was by and large peaceful.

Sporadic incidents of violence were reported from Angul, Paradip and Puri. Life was disrupted in many parts of the state with nearly 14,000 buses remained off the road. Train services, especially in Howrah-Chennai section, were hit. About 20 mail and express trains and five passenger trains were affected.

“I had no information about the strike. I came here from Phulbani this morning and was heading to Balasore to attend a family function. But I have been stranded here for six hours now. There are no buses or trains available from Bhubaneswar,” said Pramod Kanhar, 38. His wife Pratima and two children accompanied him.

Educational institutions, shops, business establishments, banks and some government offices, especially in urban areas, were closed across the state. However, Bhubaneswar was exempted by the strikers because of the municipal corporation elections, the voting for which will take place tomorrow.

This evening, a Congress delegation, led by Pradesh Congress Committee president Jaydev Jena, met governor S.C. Jamir demanding the imposition of President’s Rule in the state.

On the other hand, a BJD delegation, led by senior MLA Ananta Das, met the state election commissioner accusing the Congress of violating the model code of conduct by using the public address system to raise slogans against the government.

The commissioner intervened and stopped a roadside meeting of the Congress. But its leaders staged a 12-hour symbolic dharna on Mahatma Gandhi Marg here. While Jaydev Jena termed the strike as peaceful and successful, BJD vice-president and minister Surjya Naryan Patro said people had rejected the strike. “Buses kept off the roads and business establishments remained closed out of fear,” Patro said.

BJD vice-president and health and family welfare minister Damodar Rout said: “The Justice M.B. Shah Commission has indicted both the Centre and the state government. Let the government at the Centre be dissolved first and the President’s Rule imposed there. Only then should we talk about the state.”

In Angul, goons damaged seven ATM counters and ransacked some shops including a photo studio near a police station. In Puri, some goons ransacked the municipality office. FIRs have been lodged in both cases.

In Angul, coal mines were the worst hit with production and despatch operations coming to a grinding halt. No coal reached either the NTPC-Kaniha plant or the Nalco power plant today.

At Paradip, at least five Congress activists were injured when Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) personnel baton-charged to disperse the activists from near the rear entrance of the Paradip Port Trust administrative office building. However, cargo handling was not affected.

Normal life was also hit in Sambalpur, Bargarh, Deogarh and Jharsuguda. Though the strike hit Balasore, the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Chandipur conducted a missile test.