Kolkata: Incidents of violence and arson were reported from various parts of West Bengal with buses, a police vehicle and government properties being vandalised by strikers who tried to enforce the 24-hour bandh on Wednesday.
All over around 55 people were arrested related to the violence and arson. CPI(M) legislature party leader Sujan Chakraborty was also detained for instigating violence, the officials said.
Protesters blocked a major road in Sujapur area of Malda district, set tyres on fire, ransacked government buses and torched several vehicles, including a police van. When police tried to control the situation, they hurled stones and crude bombs.
The police then baton-charged the mob, lobbed teargas shells and fired rubber bullets, officials said. In various parts of the state, railway tracks and roads were blocked, affecting normal life. The protesters burnt tyres and blocked roads in various parts of the East Burdwan district, besides staging sit-in on railway tracks, affecting train services in the sector.
In East Midnapore district, stones were hurled at buses, following which the protesters clashed with the police, leading to several arrests, the officials said. Several buses were also vandalised in Cooch Behar districts by the protesters.
The bandh supporters tried to break past barricades in Kolkata's Central Avenue area, prompting police to use force. Several strikers were held, they said. In Dum Dum and Lake Town, clashes broke out between Left supporters, who took out rallies in support of the strike, and TMC supporters who were opposing it.
A huge police contingent was rushed to the spot to control the situation, the police said. The strikers also blocked railway tracks at Jadavpur, disrupting services in the important section and shut down vehicular movement on nearby roads, following which police resorted to baton charge.
Members of Jadavpur University students' union also joined the strikers and staged a demonstration near their campus.
Country-made bombs were found on several roads in Barasat area of the North 24 Parganas district. Crude bombs were also found on railway tracks at some places in the district, they said. The strikers also took out rallies in the industrial belt of the district, including Barrackpore and Sodepur, and blocked roads and railway tracks.
Flight services were normal at Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport but train services were partially affected in some sectors of the Sealdah, Howrah and Kharagpur sections due to obstruction by protesters. The Trinamool Congress also took out rallies opposing the strike at some places in north Bengal and urged people to maintain normalcy.
Branches and ATMs of most of the banks in the state remained closed as employees stayed away. According to the All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA), some 28 lakh cheques worth over Rs 21,000 crore could not be sent for clearing.
The All India Reserve Bank Employees Association (AIRBEA) general secretary Samir Ghosh said the strike was successful. Majority of the jute mills in the state also remained shut. Life at Bengal's IT hub Sector V was near normal, although there was a partial impact in attendance in the early hours due to disruptions in transport, NASSCOM sources said. The state government offices recorded around 95 attendances, a senior official claimed.
The government has announced that no casual leave for absence, either in the first-half of the day or in the second-half or for the whole day, nor any other leave shall be granted to any employee during the strike. The strike has been called by trade unions INTUC, AITUC, HMS, CITU, AIUTUC, TUCC, SEWA, AICCTU, LPF, UTUC, along with various sectoral independent federations and associations.