The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Buddha team bites bandh-buster bullet

Calcutta, Nov. 16: Prodded by the judiciary, the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government has marshalled its executive might to ensure that tomorrow is a 'normal working day'.

For the first time in 27 years, the Left Front regime added punch to its familiar bandh-eve claims to maintain normality by promising that police officers will be stationed on roads to help commuters in distress and escort them to workplaces and back.

'There will be senior officers placed along the main roads. If anyone finds it difficult to reach office or return home or gets stuck in a trouble spot, all he will have to do is to manage to call us. He will be our responsibility,' director-general of police Shyamal Dutta said.

The police pledge comes in the wake of a Calcutta High Court ruling that salaries of employees who absent themselves without intimation or sanctioned leave on a bandh day should be deducted. The government has formally informed its employees it will abide by the order.

Tomorrow's 24-hour Socialist Unity Centre of India bandh is the first in a series of three in less than three weeks that has been called to protest the recent hike in oil prices.

DGP Dutta said police officers would be posted at key points in the city (see chart) both to help people and to ensure arterial roads are kept free of obstruction.

The railway has been asked to keep tower wagons on hand to clear tracks if required. 'Long-distance trains will leave stations and reach destinations on time. If any train is stuck, it will be escorted to stations,' Dutta said.

State chief secretary Asok Gupta said all efforts had been made to prevent disruption. 'We have taken all the necessary steps to ensure that tomorrow is a normal day and everyone can pursue his normal vocation,' he told The Telegraph.

In its effort to take Bengal's infamous bandh politics head on, the state has also put district administrations on alert, ordered unprecedented police deployment in and around Calcutta and taken special measures to keep the showcase SaltLec IT hub running.

Transport minister Subhas Chakraborty said abundant public buses, trams, taxis and autorickshaws would ply. But private buses and mini buses may stay off roads due to differences with insurance companies that have refused to make good bandh-induced losses.

The Left-backed Co-ordination Committee of Government Employees and Associations appealed to members to boycott the bandh. 'We are hoping attendance will be good tomorrow,' general secretary Smarajit Roychowdhury said.

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