The 24-hour transport strike called by the Centre of Indian Trade Union-led left trade unions in West Bengal against the Centre's decision to hike petrol and diesel prices on Monday affected normal life and virtually assumed the dimensions of a bandh.
"As a trade union, the CITU had asked transport workers to organise a chakka jam against the oil price hike. In response, almost all buses, taxis and autorickshaws remained off the roads," State Transport Minister Subhas Chakraborty told reporters in Kokata.
While most shops, commercial establishments and offices remained open, attendance was thin as public transport, including trams, remained off the roads.
Only a few private cars were to be seen on the empty roads, and some did brisk business charging hefty sums for ferrying stranded passengers.
The Eastern Railway, South Eastern Railway and Metro Railway operated normal services, but passengers arriving at the Howrah and Sealdah terminals were left in the lurch for want of public transport.
General secretary of the Coordination Committee of State Government Employees Jyotiprasad Basu said attendance in the state secretariat and other government offices was 'below normal'. Basu himself could not attend office.
Asked whether the transport strike had assumed the dimension of a bandh, the transport minister said, "That is for you journalists to say. I can tell you that all public transport were off the roads."
Justifying the transport strike, he said that the price fixing mechanism for petrol and diesel was not transparent. "Does not the price hike inconvenience common people?" he asked.