The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Tightrope for Citu top two
- Balancing workers’ rights with govt’s demands on agenda

Nov. 23: After criticising Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s government over four days for its attempts to curb Citu’s militancy and pave the way for industrialisation, delegates at the union’s state conference have chosen two pro-industry leaders and tasked them with reconciling conflicting goals.

New Citu president Shyamal Chakraborty and general secretary Kali Ghosh today gave an idea of the task on their hands while announcing that the labour arm of the CPM would not dither to go into a confrontation with the government to safeguard workers’ interests.

In a statement of intent, they also announced that the Citu has almost finalised a decision on a strike in the jute industry, where workers have not got bonus and other statutory dues for some time. The date of the strike will be decided on November 28.

“We are very concerned at the plight of the workers in tea gardens, jute factories and engineering units. As of now, the appalling condition of the workers of scores of closed tea gardens in north Bengal is weighing heavy on our minds. We expect the government to do something fast and provide them relief. We will consider confronting the government if it fails to mitigate their sufferings,” said Ghosh, who stepped into the shoes of Chittabrata Majumdar. After 13 years on top, Majumdar relinquished office because of ill health and will now be the union vice-president.

“But direct action or confrontation is the last recourse,” both Ghosh and Chakraborty said. With the duo at the helm, a confrontation with the government is less likely. Former transport minister Chakraborty, now a CPM state secretariat member, is known to be a votary of industrialisation and responsible trade unionism and aligned with the progressive faction of the CPM. He is not expected to get into an ideological tussle — like his predecessor, the late Niren Ghosh — with the government.

Ghosh, too, is a middle-roader who, unlike Majumdar, is perceived to be flexible in approach and networks well with the hardliners within the Citu. “We in the Citu have to be united against closures and lock-outs and rise in protest against communal and imperialist forces,” Ghosh said.

If the critique of the government at the conference is anything to go by, the Ghosh-Chakraborty duo would encounter resistance to efforts to supplement Bhattacharjee’s industrialisation drive from the Citu units in the industrial belts of North 24-Parganas, Howrah and Hooghly. Delegates from these districts had launched the most severe attacks on the government. Top CPM leaders like Jyoti Basu and Anil Biswas, however, have made their support for Bhattacharjee clear.

Ghosh and Chakraborty are expected to feel the heat as they would be increasingly called upon to cap the growing anger in the ranks over the plight of the workers and make them toe the government’s pro-industry line, Citu insiders said.

For now, the Citu leaders are continuing with the rhetoric of protest. “We will have to be offensive, if necessary,” Chakraborty told a news conference.

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