The nationwide strike called by the Congress and the Left Front remained largely ineffective in West Bengal on Monday. Traffic was near normal and all offices were open.
The Congress and its allies had called the shutdown against the rising prices of petroleum products and the depreciating value of the rupee, while the CPI-M (Communist Party of India-Marxist)-led Left Front organised a nationwide stir from on the same issue.
The ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) had supported the issues raised by the opposition parties. The party, however, opposed the shutdown stating it would only lead to loss of working hours, and staged a protest rally from central Kolkata's Moulali to Dorina crossing in the Esplanade area.
"People of Bengal have seen many strikes during the 34 years of Left rule which led to a debt of Rs 2,00,000 crore. Another strike means another loss of working hours. So we decided to protest against the Centre by not calling a strike, but by conducting a protest rally. We have been extremely vocal against the BJP. After the 2019 election, BJP will become extinct," State Minister and Trinamool's Secretary General Partha Chatterjee said.
It was business as usual in the city and suburbs where thousands of office goers hit the streets as the day progressed. The districts also remained largely active barring stray incidents in some places like Howrah district's Dasnagar industrial area where the strike supporters tried to put up road blockades and clashed with the police.
Banks, educational institutions including schools and colleges mostly remained open while Additional police personnel were deployed throughout the state to prevent any untoward incidents.
Some schools in the state also declared a holiday.
According to an official, the attendance at the state secretariat Nabanna was over 95 per cent and overall attendance in state government offices 97 per cent.
Train services in Eastern and South-Eastern Railways as well as the city metro train service remained normal though the Left Front supporters put up a rail blockade in Hooghly district's Sreerampore, Kolkata's Jadavpur station and Sealdah division's Lakshmikantapur lines for an hour.
A special arrangement was made with a nationalised insurance company to extend insurance benefits of up to Rs 75,000 to the owner of any vehicle damaged by miscreants on Monday, an official said.
Accusing the Mamata Banerjee administration of trying to foil their protest demonstration, both Congress and the Left parties claimed that the state government was trying to guard the failures of the central government.
"The TMC has taken several steps to foil our protest 'hartal' (strike) against the Centre's policies. They deputed extra police personnel on the streets and pressurised the government, semi-government employees to come to work, and schools and colleges to remain open. We know that sometimes Trinamool fails to maintain distance from the BJP. Sometimes, their masks come off," Left Front Chairman Biman Bose alleged.
"Banerjee has sent her party MP Sukhendu Sekhar Roy to attend the Congress agitation in Delhi and here she has engaged all her party goons and state police to foil our bandh. She is playing the role of a saint in Delhi and of a devil in Bengal," state Congress President Adhir Chowdhury claimed.
"By opposing the bandh today, Banerjee and her party are strengthening the hands of Prime Minister Narendra Modi," he added.