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Congress bandh brings Bengal to a standstill

July 17, 2009 15:07 IST

Normal life was on Friday thrown out of gear across West Bengal with rail and road traffic severely affected in the wake of a 12-hour state bandh called by the Congress to protest against the attack, allegedly by Communist Party of India - Marxist supporters, on its Members of Legislative Assembly at Mangalkot in Burdwan district.

However, flight operations from the Netaji Subhashchandra Bose International airport remained normal in the early hours of the day. Domestic flights from Kolkata to New Delhi, Mumbai, Guwahati, Silchar and Port Blair along with international flights took off early today, airport sources said.

Air passengers arrived at the airport much before the bandh began at 6 am, they said, adding, "Some flights scheduled to leave in the afternoon were either cancelled or rescheduled."

Railway sources said train services from Howrah and Sealdah divisions were severely hit due to the squatting of bandh supporters on the rail track at several locations.

An Eastern Railway spokesperson said at least eight trains including New Delhi-Howrah and New Delhi-Sealdah Rajdhani Expresses were stranded at were various stations due to squatting of bandh supporters on rail tracks.

Eight express trains including Howrah-Ranchi Shatabdi Express have been cancelled, officials said. Train services were also hit on the South Eastern Railway and four trains including Howrah-Barbil Janashatabdi Express have been cancelled.

Skeleton vehicular movement was seen on the city roads. A few private bus owners operated their buses. Shops and educational institutions remained closed.

The bandh prompted Calcutta, Jadavpur, Kalyani and Burdwan universities to postpone today's under-graduate and post- graduate exams, to be undertaken by over two lakh students. Some 5,000 policemen were deployed on the road after Thursday's rampage by Congress supporters, who damaged buses.

Hundreds of extra police pickets and an equal number of extra heavy radio flying squad were deployed in the city. Meanwhile, Inspector General (Law and Order) Raj Kanojia said, so far, only one incident of vandalising of a state bus by bandh supporters had been reported.

Life has been severely hit in north Bengal districts, where Congress wields considerable influence. It has also affected the industrial towns of Durgapur and Asansol.

Meanwhile, extending its 'moral support' to the bandh, Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee said a state-sponsored terrorism, targetting Opposition leaders and supporters, has been unleashed in the state since CPI-M's defeat in Lok Sabha polls and asked the Centre to 'intervene' immediately.

On Thursday, Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had in the Assembly condemned Wednesday's attack on Congress MLAs and admitted that the administration's 'lapses' led the situation to slip out of control.

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