Kolkata/Thiruvananthapuram/Agartala: The state-wide 12-hour strike called by the Left Parties to protest demonetisation failed to evoke much response in West Bengal, but the bandh called in Kerala and Tripura hit normal life as public transport stayed off the roads in both the states.
The protest called by the Congress and the Left parties in Telangana also failed to have much impact, as public transport buses plied almost normally and shops and other commercial establishments remained open. Educational institutions also functioned normally.
Government and private buses, trams and other private vehicles were seen plying on the road while most of the shops and markets were open in West Bengal.
Train services of Eastern Railway in Sealdah and Howrah sections, besides Metro Rail services were also normal, Railway sources said.
“So far there has been no incident. The situation is peaceful and normal”, ADG (Law and Order) Anuj Sharma told PTI.
The strike call by the Left Front has been opposed by the ruling TMC in West Bengal.
Transport Minister and senior Trinamool Congress leader Suvendu Adhikari said his department is plying 3000 more buses to maintain normalcy.
“It seems the people have rejected the strike call. The people of Bengal very well know that strike does not serve any purpose. If you want to oppose anti-people decision you have to hit the streets,” TMC secretary general Partha Chatterjee told PTI.
The Left Front claimed that the strike is going on peacefully and accused ruling TMC of trying to unleash violence at certain places.
“The people of the state have willingly participated in the strike to oppose demonetization. In most of the places it is peaceful but in certain areas TMC is using its muscle power to break the strike,” CPI(M)LP leader Sujan Chakraborty said.
LF leaders including the Front chairman Biman Bose and CPI-M state secretary Surjya Kanta Mishra took to the streets and participated in a procession in the metropolis.
“We are not demanding a roll back of demontisation. What we want is that common people should not face any hardship,” Bose said.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, opposing the strike had said, “We oppose bandhs. We will take out a protest march (against demonetisation) on Monday.
TMC said it was against putting people into more hardship when they are already facing a lot of problems owing to the scarcity of cash.
Instead, the party will take out a rally from College Square to Esplanade to protest against demonetisation during the day, TMC general secretary Subrata Bakshi had said.
The state government has ordered all its employees to attend offices today and tomorrow. Exceptions would be made only in case of bereavement, maternity leave, hospitalisation and other ‘genuine reasons’, a circular issued by the state finance department said.
Over 3,000 police personnel have been deployed in the metropolis to tackle any untoward incident, Kolkata Police official said.
Meanwhile, Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) and private buses kept off roads in most places after the strike led by Kerala’s CPI(M)-led LDF government began at 6 am.
However, autorickshaws were seen plying in some places, providing some relief to people. Police vehicles were used to transport railway passengers and patients coming from far off places to the Regional Cancer Centre in Thiruvananthapuram.
Some Sabarimala pilgrims who arrived at Kottayam by train complained that they were unable to leave for the Ayyappa temple as buses were not plying.
“We have been waiting for hours. Though some private taxis are available, we cannot afford them as the fares are exorbitant,” a man from Andhra Pradesh said.
The tourism sector and vehicles of Sabarimala pilgrims have been exempted from the strike.
Keeping in mind the peak tourist season, the government had decided to exempt tourists from the strike. It has issued instructions to all departments concerned, including police to take all possible steps to ensure that the tourism sector was not hit by the strike.
Tourism Minister Kadakampally Surendran had also requested for exemption of tourists and tourist vehicles from the strike.
German Cruise liner AIDAbella which had arrived in Kochi made a turnaround call at the Kochi port yesterday.
At least 1000 tourists would be arriving at the airport today to embark the vessel, while some would be leaving it to explore various places.
Tour operators were assured by Tourism Principal Secretary V Venu that the hartal would not affect the visitors.
The opposition Congress-led UDF would be taking out a march to the Raj Bhavan here at 11 AM on the crisis being faced by the cooperative sector.
Banks, newspapers, milk supply, hospitals and marriage functions would be exempted from the shutdown, LDF convener Vaikom Viswam had said in a statement.
The LDF had announced the strike as part of the nationwide protest against the Centre’s move of scrapping Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes.
The bandh evoked a good response in the state with schools, colleges and shops remaining closed and vehicles staying off the roads. However, banks were open as they were out of the purview of the bandh.
There was no untoward incident in any part of the state till noon, police said.
Opposition Congress, which is opposing the bandh, was observing ‘Akrosh Diwas’ in the state by organising rallies and processions.
“We are against demonetisation because it is inconveniencing people but we are against the bandh because it also causes inconveniences,” Tripura Pradesh Congress Committee (TPCC) President and MLA Birajit Sinha said.
Tripura unit of Trinamul Congress (TMC) also opposed the bandh on the same grounds.
“We are against demonetisation but do not support the bandh because it spoils work culture and also causes monetary loss of common people,” TMC spokesperson Asish Saha told reporters.
The Tripura unit of BJP was also opposed to the bandh.
President of Tripura unit of BJP Biplab Deb said, “Political parties supporting black money have called the bandh”.