The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Plains peaceful, poster shuts hill town

Aug. 8: The 24-hour nationwide strike called by the Citu today passed off peacefully in the six districts of north Bengal.

The trade union wing of the CPM had called the strike along with a host of Leftist organisations against the alleged reluctance of the Centre to provide social security benefits to workers in the unorganised sector.

Across the region, government offices, banks, colleges and most of the schools remained open with a few government buses plying Private buses, rickshaws, autos remained off the roads while shops and marketplaces remained closed throughout the day. Tea gardens and small tea plantations were open in Darjeeling, the Terai and the Dooars.

A single poster expressing support for the Citu-sponsored strike was enough to bring Darjeeling town to a grinding halt.

Last evening, members of the Citu’s Darjeeling Zonal Committee had plastered the lone poster near Chowk Bazar, merely stating that they supported the bandh. The poster, however, neither explained the issues nor mentioned that “they wanted” Darjeeling to remain shut today, as is usually done during other strikes.

Not a single taxi, however, plied in town nor did any shops open their shutters. Even private cars went off the road and attendance was thin in most government offices.

S.P. Lepcha, the former CPM MP from Darjeeling, and a member of the Citu’s district committee admitted that no picketing was organised by the party in the town. “Since the issues were legitimate the people themselves supported the strike and everything remained closed,” he said.

However, most traders who had shut shops today admitted that they knew nothing about the demands of the strike. “We heard there would be a strike and since we did not want a confrontation, we kept our shutters down,” said a trader on the condition of anonymity.

Though government offices and banks remained open in Siliguri, some schools decided to keep their institutions close.

“Though schools were kept outside the purview of the strike, we decided to keep our institution shut to avoid any untoward incident,” said S.P. Das, the principal of Delhi Public School in Siliguri.

A minor skirmish was reported at Cheorahat in Cooch Behar when Citu supporters forced shopkeepers to down their shutters this morning. Police intervened and brought the situation under control.

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