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Commuters left in bandh lurch

Squatters stop trains on tracks, supporters clash with police on roads

AISF activists block trains at Rajendra Nagar station during the Bihar bandh in Patna on Tuesday and (below) some of its members protest at Ashok Rajpath. Pictures by Ashok sinha and Ranjeet Kumar Dey

The statewide bandh call given by Left Front parties partially hit life in the city and other parts of the state on Tuesday.

The Front issued the call to protest the central government's land acquisition bill, involvement of BJP ministers and chief ministers in corruption and scams, increase in service tax and price hike of essential commodities.

Trains became the soft target of bandh supporters, who halted trains, both Express and Passenger, at different locations. Although autos remained off the road, buses plied on main routes as usual. Commuters faced hardships owing to road blockades and disruption of train services.

A number of bandh supporters, led by CPI-ML(Liberation) secretary general Dipankar Bhattacharya, enforced the bandh in the capital and courted arrest at Dakbungalow Chowk. Earlier, they put up road blockades at Chitkohra, Rajendra Nagar and Kargil Chowk (Gandhi Maidan), leading to traffic snarls at different points. A minor scuffle broke out between the security forces and the bandh enforcers near Chitkohra overbridge, when the police prevented them exerting pressure on the shopkeepers of the area to down their shutters. They clashed with the police near Anisabad Mor in western Patna.

Activists of CPI-ML(Liberation), CPM, CPI, SUCI-C and Forward Bloc also squatted on railway tracks and paralysed the movement of trains in Patna, Jehanabad, Bhojpur, Nawada, Muzaffarpur, Darbhanga and Saharsa districts. While Palamau Express and Janshatabdi Express were stranded in Jehanabad, the Patna-Ara Shuttle was halted at Ara railway station in Bhojpur district.

Similarly, Patna-Dhanbad Express was stopped at Patna Junction, Kamla-Ganga Superfast Passenger was halted at Laheriasarai railway station in Darbhanga district. Other trains such as Gaya-Kiul Passenger was stopped at Sheikhpura and Nawada. Reports of rail and road blockades also poured in from Aurangabad, Rohtas, Begusarai, Samastipur and Saran districts. Disruption of train services left the commuters high and dry.

Aradhana Singh, a third-year undergraduate student of a Patna-based college, had to wait for over five hours at Hajipur railway station under the Sonepur railway division owing to the bandh. "I had to go to Bettiah from Hajipur through Muzaffarpur. Though I reached the station at 9am, there was no train for Muzaffarpur, as trains were stopped at different places by bandh enforcers," she said. She finally left for Muzaffarpur when a train arrived around 2pm.

Similarly, Gudia Kumari, a resident of Kumhrar in Patna, had to drop her journey plan owing to late arrival of the train. "I was supposed to board a Dhanbad-bound train to reach Jasidih in Jharkhand. But the train was running several hours behind schedule. I thought it better to drop the plan and travel tomorrow (Wednesday)," she said.

Both rail and road traffic became normal after 4pm. Officers posted at the state police headquarters claimed that the bandh passed off peacefully. "Barring few incidents of minor clashes, no untoward incident has been reported from any part of the state during the bandh," said additional director-general (headquarters) Sunil Kumar.

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