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Strike sparks dark Monday fears

Power supply in the city and elsewhere in the districts is likely to be disrupted on Monday with the employees and engineers of different power utilities giving a call for a 24-hour strike to protest against the Electricity Bill 2001, to be tabled in Parliament on the same day.

Officials fear this will cause inconvenience to students sitting for the on-going Higher Secondary examinations. The strike in being backed by all trade unions, including the Citu the and Intuc.

Power minister Mrinal Banerjee said during the day that he had asked officials to make necessary arrangements to ensure power supply for all the emergency services.

“We do not support the Bill under any circumstances since it will ensure rapid privatisation at all levels and the state will have no control over power tariff. Besides, there will be no provision for cross-subsidy,” Banerjee said.

Officials in the power department said all the Acts passed in the Assembly, including the West Bengal Electricity Regulatory Commission Amendment Bill 2003, will stand automatically cancelled if the Central Bill is passed in Parliament.

Though general secretary of the Citu-affiliated WBSEB workmen’s union, Prasanta Nandi Chowdhury, said during the day that the generation and distribution of power would remain unaffected, he admitted that all engineers would participate in the strike. “We have urged our members to maintain normal power supply, taking into account the inconvenience that will be caused to HS examinees. But at the same time, we feel that the strike will be total,” Nandi Chowdhury maintained.

Though those working in the generation plant will be on duty as usual, the offices will remain closed and payment of electricity bills will not be accepted. “We appeal to the consumers to bear with us for a greater cause,” said Murari Bose, another union leader.

Intuc leader and mayor Subrata Mukherjee said the entire power sector would collapse if the proposed Bill was passed. According to him, the Bill will empower the Centre to “do anything” in the sector and the state government will hardly have any say.

“Power supply in hospitals and other emergency sectors will be normal but I cannot give any guarantee for the domestic sector. If most of the employees and engineers in any division join the strike, who will monitor the supply' There may be some problems but we believe that people will bear with us since our movement is to protect the interest of the common people,” Mukherjee added.

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