The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Citu digests boot to clinic unions...
- Mixed day at office for the CPM’s labour arm: state secretary sings govt tune, district unit strikes discordant note

Calcutta, Feb. 11: The Citu, widely regarded as a bugbear of Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s government, seems to be getting ready to play ball with him.

The leadership of the Citu, the CPM’s labour arm, today said they would back the government in its clean-hospital drive.

“Gone are the days when we carried on trade union activities even in hospitals. The time has changed and we have to back the government in its drive to close union offices on hospital premises. This is a step in the right direction — to stop trade union activities in hospital — as part of our move to improve the healthcare system,” Kali Ghosh, Citu state secretary, said this afternoon.

Ghosh suggested that if hospital employees have grievances against the management, they can settle the matter through discussion. “We have no right to disturb the patients while putting our demands to the management,” he said.

Buoyed by the Citu’s backing and its success in closing down union offices at SSKM hospital, the government has decided to take the drive to other state-run hospitals across Bengal.

The authorities will also close down unauthorised canteens, which clandestinely supply food to patients through relatives and sometimes even group D staff.

“The never-before clean-hospital operation is part of our move to rid hospitals of all sorts of activities which harm patients’ interests. We have to take certain measures to improve the upkeep of hospitals which is necessary to revamp the age-old healthcare system,” said Asim Burman, principal secretary in the health department. He said the drive will be undertaken on the Calcutta Medical College and Hospital premises next week.

Hospital superintendents across the state have been asked to locate unauthorised union offices and canteens on their premises and put them under lock and key immediately. “The drive will be carried out even in small rural hospitals in the coming days,” Burman added.

S. Tripathi, SSKM medical superintendent-cum-vice-principal, said tonight they were able to close down 11 union offices on its grounds in the face of stiff opposition from political leaders during a clean-up drive last Friday. “We have got back space measuring 15,000 sq ft by closing down the trade union offices. We will shortly open a sophisticated gastro-enteritis unit and a branch of a nationalised bank on the land,” he added.

Tripathi also planned to remove the unauthorised canteens at the hospital. “We have identified four such canteens and will demolish them in a day or two.”

The medical college authorities are gearing up for the drive. “We have identified five or six union offices on the hospital premises and asked its office bearers to shift. If they don’t oblige within a stipulated time, we will have to close them down,” said hospital superintendent Rabindra Nath Chattopadhyay.

Barely five years ago, the hospital authorities had to incur the wrath of the local CPM leaders for carrying out a drive against union offices.

The attitude is unchanged in the other trade unions. Intuc chief Subrata Mukherjee, also the mayor of Calcutta, felt the move will harm the spirit of the trade union movement. “It’s true that we have to maintain certain restraints while carrying out a movement in hospitals. But it is undemocratic to close down trade union offices on hospital premises,” he said.

The Trinamul Congress-led Progressive Employees’ Union said they would oppose the drive. “We are planning to observe a black day next month in protest against the government’s drive to close down union offices on hospital premises,” said secretary Madan Mitra.

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