The eastern Indian state of West Bengal was paralysed on Monday after a strike against acquisition of agricultural land for an automobile project shut down businesses, schools and transport services, a news agency reported.

Thousands of armed policemen were deployed across the state and about 400 protesting activists were arrested as the 12-hour strike called by the opposition Trinamul Congress party took hold, police told Reuters.

Trinamul, which is an ally of the national opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, has opposed the state government's decision to give agricultural land to Tata Motors, about 25 miles (40km) north of the state capital Kolkata.

Party activists stopped buses and trains and even abducted train drivers and signalmen at some places to enforce the strike, witnesses and police told the news agency.

Stray clashes between Trinamul and workers from the ruling communist party were also reported from some places, they told Reuters.

"The strike has been total and very successful. This is just the beginning of our battle to stop the government from handing over agricultural land for the project," Mukul Roy, general-secretary of Trinamul Congress, told the news agency.

However, the report added, the communist government of West Bengal, however, said it was undeterred by Monday's strike and land for the INR10bn ($US220m) car project would be handed over to the company soon.

"The land acquisition is under way and we require a couple of weeks more to complete payments to land owners," Sabyasachi Sen, the state's industry secretary, told Reuters.

The news agency noted that West Bengal's communists have been wooing foreign and domestic investors to Kolkata in recent years, and have also shut down some public sector enterprises considered unviable to boost growth in the traditionally agricultural state.

Their new economic focus helped them win a record seventh term in office this year, the report added, noting that communists also form part of the ruling coalition at the national level in New Delhi.