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Bonus slash defence lined up

Calcutta, Sept. 29: Assailed by criticism from anti-Left state government employees and some Left Front partners, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and finance minister Asim Dasgupta have decided to explain their compulsion behind slashing puja bonus at a Front committee meeting slated for October 7.

Front chairman Biman Bose is learnt to have convened the meeting after the RSP and the CPI, two constituents of the ruling coalition, conveyed their displeasure to the CPM leadership over the manner in which the bonus for state employees was halved this time.

The RSP leadership said the party was not opposed to the government’s decision, but was sore that the matter was not discussed at the Front meeting before being announced. “We were really shocked to see in newspapers that the government has halved the bonus this time due to acute financial stringency,” said a senior RSP leader. “There was no indication of a reduction in bonus this time when the finance minister presented the budget in the Assembly,” he added.

Echoing the RSP, senior CPI leader and minister for water resources investigation Nandagopal Bhattacharya complained that the bonus issue was not discussed at the Cabinet also.

Another Front leader, preferring anonymity, said the government should have at least discussed the matter at the core committee, comprising leaders from all Left Front constituents. “We are hurt at the way Front partners are not being taken into confidence before taking a major policy decision,” he added.

Several Front leaders believe the government’s unpopular decision would make it difficult for the Left trade unions to keep a hold on their members. Some members of the CPM-controlled Co-ordination Committee have already lodged a protest with the leadership over the bonus slash.

But the government seems unlikely to loosen its purse strings. It is believed the finance minister will issue another circular tomorrow, prohibiting departmental secretaries from spending any money without the consent of the finance department.

The secretaries used to spend up to Rs 30 lakh without any prior approval from the department concerned. Now, they will be debarred from doing so, sources in the finance ministry said.

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