The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Citu threat to power supply
- Work-to-rule protest against bureaucrats

Calcutta, Feb. 16: Power supply across the state is likely to be hit as the Citu today announced an agitation in which about 30,000 employees of the State Electricity Board will resort to a work-to-rule from Wednesday.

Shyamal Chakraborty, the president of the CPM’s labour arm, said more than 33,000 board employees have been asked to join the agitation to press for implementation of an “11-point charter of demands”.

“I am afraid the power situation would take a few knocks because of the action we have lined up,” said Chakraborty. The man, who moved up to the helm of the union last year, is known to be close to the government for being a moderate and his ability to work within limits drawn up by the CPM brass and Writers’ Buildings.

“I have been active in the power sector for over 24 years as a trade unionist, but was never before compelled to take a stand like this. There is no other way we can highlight grievances,” Chakraborty told a news conference.

A CPM central committee member, Chakraborty said the union gave the work-to-rule call to draw the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government’s attention to “sabotage” by officers in the electricity board and the power and finance departments.

Though the Citu cited the “sabotage” and several other justifications for the agitation, the government’s failure to pay heed to its demand to appointment 1,500 technical assistants in substations in place of contractors is believed to be the real provocation. The union, it is believed, wants to pressure the government into an agreement in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections.

Power minister Mrinal Banerjee said he could only comment after speaking to the union leaders. “I tried to reach Shyamal Chakraborty over phone but could not. Tomorrow, I will find out what the Citu leadership has decided,” he said.

Electricity board officials said though the generating stations at Bakreswar, Kolaghat, Bandel and Santaldih are under the jurisdiction of the Power Development Corporation, the board distributes the power.

The officials expressed fear that as the unions in the generating stations also belong to the Citu, employees there may resort to an unofficial work-to-rule affecting generation.

Chakraborty alleged that the board was selling power to other states while villages in Bengal were without electricity during the evening peak hours. “This is nothing but sabotage by a section of officers before the elections. I will furnish a list of names to the chief minister,” said the Citu leader.

Chakraborty alleged that “bureaucrats” in the power and finance departments have declared “war” against the government. “These officials are keeping the power and finance ministers in the dark about decisions and selling electricity to other states creating an artificial crisis.”

But Chakraborty’s method of protest may plunge large parts of the city into darkness as the board feeds CESC areas as well.

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