The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Buoyed SUCI threatens two-day shutdown

Calcutta, Jan. 27: The “holiday weekend” ensured that a bandh called by even a minor party like the SUCI stalled life in the city and most of the districts today.

The government’s efforts to maintain normality were defeated by people who preferred a “holiday” to work. The bandh was “total” in Burdwan, Nadia, Howrah, Hooghly, Murshidabad and Birbhum.

Train services were disrupted. Shops, educational institutions and business establishments remained closed and attendance in government offices was thin.

Though a near-normal fleet of buses was on the roads, there were few passengers. The streets in the city and district towns were deserted.

Buoyed by today’s “success”, the SUCI threatened to call a 48-hour bandh. “The overwhelming success of the Bangla bandh has put greater responsibility on our shoulders. We shall fight to the last to realise the people’s demands,” said state SUCI secretary Pravas Ghosh.

“We will request the people to boycott payment of enhanced electricity bills before we go for the two-day strike. The ball is in the government’s court. It will either have to meet our demands or face people’s wrath,” he warned.

The SUCI’s demands include continuation of cross-subsidy in power tariffs, withdrawal of the hike in hospital and school fees and steps to improve law and order.

“Attendance in offices and courts was comparatively less but bandhs have lost their meaning. Everyone takes the opportunity to enjoy a holiday,” said transport minister Subhas Chakraborty.

The CPM leadership said the bandh lacked spontaneity. Long-distance buses plied as usual.

The shutdown did not have any impact on flight schedules. All international and domestic flights left and landed as usual. Air-India flew a chartered plane to Jeddah for Haj pilgrims. Indian Airlines, Alliance Air, Jet Airways and Air Sahara operated their usual number of flights.

Inspector-general of police, law and order, Chayan Mukherjee said at Writers’ Buildings though attendance was 55 to 65 per cent in government offices, the bandh failed to affect the industrial and coal belts.

Police picked up 1,012 bandh supporters, including SUCI MLA Debaprasad Sarkar. The party claimed its supporters were beaten up by the police in 14 places.

Tarun Kanti Naskar, a professor of mechanical engineering in Jadavpur University and an SUCI leader, was allegedly assaulted by the “bandh opponents” near the varsity. Naskar alleged that the police were spectators when he was being beaten.

This was the second Bengal bandh in a month. The Party for Democratic Socialism had called a 12-hour bandh on January 10.

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