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Strike over inflation shuts down West Bengal PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 22 April 2008

REUTERS, Kolkata- A strike over rising prices shut schools, offices and businesses in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal on Monday as nationwide protests against inflation continued, police said.

Protesters stopped trains by throwing banana leaves on overhead wires and blocked roads in the state capital Kolkata as a dawn-to-dusk strike called by the state's main opposition party took hold, witnesses and police said.

Strike supporters in Kolkata, eastern India's biggest city, threw stones at a state-run bus and smashed its windscreen with rods, as authorities and private owners took off buses from the roads fearing attacks.

At least 300 people were detained in the eastern state for causing violence, Raj Kanojia, a senior police officer said. In many places strike enforcers wore garlands of onion and potato and shouted: "We want answers now." Most trains were cancelled or delayed for hours.

"Other than long-distance trains, the suburban locals on which millions commute every day have been affected the most," Samir Goswami, an Indian railway spokesman said on Monday.

Protests against inflation caused traffic snarls in India's capital New Delhi and many other parts of the country last week, while opposition lawmakers, protesting against rising prices in parliament, halted proceedings in the lower house. Inflation in India hit a three-year high at the end of March, reaching 7.41 percent and raising political tension in the country.

In spite of the Congress party-led coalition government's assurance that they were taking steps to control inflation in the coming weeks, angry people have taken to the streets.

Opposition parties and some of the Congress party's own allies have blamed the government. In Kolkata, strike supporters held anti-government rallies, shouted slogans and prevented people from going to work.

"The West Bengal government and the Congress-led ruling coalition at the centre have failed to curb price rise," said Mamata Banerjee, chief of the Trinamul Congress, the state's main opposition party. "It appears they are sleeping over the issue as common people bear the brunt of inflation," she told reporters on Monday.

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