Day 1 of nationwide bandh marked by killing, violence

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Banking services across the country came to a grinding halt on Wednesday, due to the two-day Bharat bandh called by 11 major trade unions. Sporadic violence was reported in many parts of country, claiming a life of a union leader in Haryana, damage to factory units in Delhi suburb Noida and suburban railway station at Andheri in Mumbai. Public transport systems too were also severely hit, in many parts of the country.

Industry body, Assocham, estimated that the bandh would cause a loss of Rs 15,000-20,000 crore.

The strike was called to protest against the “anti-people” policies of the UPA government that include price rise, poor implementation of labour laws, disinvestment in PSUs and increased FDI in various sectors.

Kerala, Tripura and Bihar were among the worst hit states where normal life was thrown out of gear while stray incidents of violence were reported in Odisha and Karnataka.

Meanwhile, West Bengal chief minister and Trinamul Congress supreme, Mamata Banerjee, on Wednesday sparked off yet another political controversy, urging the election commission to ban political parties, who call bandhs, from contesting polls. The remarks of Banerjee, once known for her agitational politics and calling frequent bandhs, did not go down well in political circles, particularly among the Left parties, who promptly started ridiculing her for not even knowing the trade unions’ constitutional rights. Significantly, West Bengal, that used to be the worst affected during all bandhs in the past, was least affected this time round.

In Kolkata, flights were on schedule and there were more taxis, public buses and private vehicles on the roads than usually seen during shutdowns. Markets, shops and offices were mostly open. Only a handful of complaints came from a section of passengers, at the Howrah railway station, who had some trouble getting pre-paid taxis.

In Mumbai, banks were shut but trains and buses were running normally and the government offices were open. There were no reports of disruptions at the Mumbai airport either. A stray incident of fracas was reported, when a group of few hundred Left activists tried to stop suburban trains at Andheri, but the police eventually prevented that. In Delhi, public transport was the biggest casualty. Passengers arriving at New Delhi railway station were stranded as taxis and auto-rickshaws either refused them or overcharged.

Earlier on the day, sporadic violence erupted in Haryana’s Ambala town, where a trade union leader Narender Singh, who was squatting along with a group of workers near the local bus depot, died after hit by a bus, in his bid to stop it from plying.

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