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Last Updated: Friday, 16 March 2007, 14:53 GMT
India strike over police shooting
By Subir Bhaumik
BBC News, Calcutta

A bus burnt by opposition activists during the general strike
Opposition activists gutted more than 10 passenger buses
A general strike called by opposition parties over the shooting by police of protesting farmers has paralysed life in the Indian state of West Bengal.

Fourteen people were killed and more than 70 injured during Wednesday's violence at Nandigram in West Bengal.

The farmers were protesting against government plans to set up a chemical hub and an industrial zone in the area.

Protests have gone on there despite the state government pledging to move the hub elsewhere.

Opposition supporters lobbed homemade bombs and set fire to buses in some areas of the state capital, Calcutta, sending people running for cover.

More than 1,100 opposition activists have been arrested and more than 100 injured in clashes with Marxist supporters.

Train services out of Calcutta have been severely affected. Flights operated out of Calcutta airport but taxis and buses stayed off the roads after the early morning violence.

Heavy criticism

Educational institutions, shops and markets were closed throughout the state and a school-leaving examination has been rescheduled to mid April.

Most of the state's industrial areas and tea gardens, including the new information technology hub in Calcutta's Salt Lake area, functioned normally, though with fewer staff.

Violence in Nandigram

The opposition parties led by the Trinamul Congress had called for the day-long strike to protest against the violence in the Nandigram area.

The state's chief minister, Buddhadev Bhattacharya, who ordered the police action, has come under heavy criticism not only from opposition parties and smaller parties in the state's ruling Left coalition but also from his mentor and the state's former chief minister, Jyoti Basu.

During a meeting of the Left coalition partners late on Thursday, Mr Basu rebuked Mr Bhattacharya for failing to restrain the police in trying to restore the administration's control over Nandigram.

Mr Bhattacharya is pushing for the speedy industrialisation of the state after years of decline caused by militant Marxist trade unionism.

But his plans to take over thousands of acres of fertile croplands for industries to be set up by Indian and foreign investors has run into stiff resistance from farmers in many parts of West Bengal.

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