| After suggestions to improve the traffic situation in the city, magician PC Sorcar Jr was back to his street stunts, rehearsing a disappearing act with daughter Maneka on a deserted Bijon Setu, in Gariahat, on Tuesday afternoon. Actress Arunima Ghosh and a group of children watched in wonder as the lamp post doubled as a magic prop for the rope trick. Now all that’s left for the magician with a mission to do is make bandhs vanish. Picture by Aranya Sen
If only PC Sorcar Jr could wave a magic wand and make bandhs disappear!
This could be the collective sigh from Calcutta the day bandh season 2004 was kicked off by Mamata Banerjee.
If the 12-hour Trinamul Congress bandh slowed down life to a crawl on Tuesday, an action replay could be enacted before the month runs out. For, an all-India strike called by most trade unions belonging to the Opposition on February 24 — and spearheaded by CITU — is likely to make its full impact felt on the city.
That’s not all. The SUCI and the CPI-ML (Liberation), a Naxalite faction, have threatened to call two separate bandhs, probably in February, to protest the rise in hospital charges and the upward revision of taxes on motor vehicles and other items.
SUCI leaders are busy conducting a survey to gauge the popular mood before announcing a bandh date. “We took the opinion of the people when we were thinking of calling a 48-hour bandh last August. During our survey, we found that the people wanted only a day’s strike and so we called a 24-hour bandh,” said Provas Ghosh, SUCI state secretary, attempting to provide a popular twist to the paralysis call.
The Congress, however, seems to be the odd one out when it comes to political parties jumping on to the bandh bandwagon. “The last time we called a bandh was in 2000. Since then, we have realised that people’s problems are not solved by bandhs. We don’t have any plans for a bandh in the near future,” said Pradip Bhattacharya, state Congress working president.
Tuesday’s bandh had little impact on flight and Metro Railway schedules. But there was a drop in passenger count, on both the international and domestic sectors, according to an official of the Airports Authority of India.
The Trinamul-sponsored shutdown, described by chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee as “irresponsible”, found 228 bandh supporters being arrested. Ten vehicles were damaged between 10 am and 1 pm, police said.
At around 11.45 am, about 100 Trinamul supporters led by Sanjay Bakshi set up a roadblock on Howrah bridge, stopping passing vehicles and even smashing the windshield of a state bus. Two policemen sustained injuries. Trinamul supporters later demonstrated in front of the Lalbazar police headquarters to protest the arrests.
Chetla, CIT Road, Amherst Street, Central Avenue-Eden Hospital Road, Harish Mukherjee Road, Chetla Central Road and Rashbehari Avenue witnessed stray incidents, while at Howrah Maidan, processionists damaged three state buses, four private buses and ransacked five shops that were open.
At the end of the year’s first bandh day, inspector-general (law and order) Chayan Mukherjee said no major incidents were reported from the districts.