The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bandh, what bandh'

From huge crowds at railway stations to festival frenzy at cinemas, a holiday high at malls to 100 per cent attendance in school exams' Wednesday witnessed a number of firsts, as most of Calcutta stood up and said: 'We don't want no bandhs no more!'

Metro focuses on some key aspects of an all-action bandh day:

Wheel deal: The state government, for once, pulled out the stops to ensure the public transport system functioned smoothly. Though most private buses and minibuses stayed off the streets, government buses and trams, as also the Metro Railway, were all up and running.

Check the figures: 820 state buses plied on Wednesday, against the usual 600; 160, instead of 140, trams trundled out. Taxis and autorickshaws were also around.

'We had made a pledge to the people and also to the court,' said transport minister Subhas Chakraborty. 'On Wednesday, we kept our word.'

Police posting: If the government won kudos all around for keeping things normal, part of the credit goes to the police force. Around 8,000 policemen, double the number than on any previous bandh day, were deployed. Sanjoy Mukherjee, deputy commissioner (headquarters) said: 'Besides handling the normal law-and-order problems associated with a bandh, we managed to ensure that students and office-goers had no trouble reaching their destinations.'

By the book: A number of schools not only remained open but also functioned normally. South Point, Modern High and Calcutta International School (CIS) kept their doors open and held classes on schedule.

Modern High even conducted Class XII exams and recorded 100 per cent attendance. A provision for re-examination had been kept by the authorities but deliberately not conveyed to the students.

Calcutta and Jadavpur universities, too, functioned normally and did not postpone examinations. 'All examinees reached the venue on time,' said O.S. Adhikari, CU controller of examinations.

Eating out: In a dramatic departure from the past, Wednesday saw most major eateries remaining open and doing brisk business. 'We decided not to give in to the bandh,' said Rajesh Mishra, honorary secretary of the Hotels and Restaurants Association of Eastern India. 'We hope to have set a precedent.'

Retail & Reel: At Forum, the footfall was 'even more than on a normal weekday', and barring three or four outlets, which stayed shut, it was business better than usual. 'It was more like a Sunday, with huge crowds at INOX,' said Rahul Saraf, managing director of the Elgin Road mall. 'Calcutta, tired of the bandh culture, was keen to make a statement,' he added.

If at INOX, box-office business was 'more like a mini-Sunday' than a normal Wednesday, ticket sales at 89 Cinemas were up by 20 per cent.

Pantaloons kept all stores open. 'Business picked up in the afternoon,' said R.S. Rekhi of Pantaloon Retail (India) Ltd. Sales dipped by only 10 per cent, compared with the last bandh when the hit was a significant 40 per cent.

Wednesday being the concluding day of the 10th Kolkata Film Festival, the Nandan campus was overrun by cine-goers, delegates and a number of small and big-screen stars. Both Nandan and Rabindra Sadan ran house-full shows since morning.

Almost all cinemas across town remained open through the day, confirmed Arijit Dutta, president, Eastern India Motion Picture Association.

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