The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Shield local, strike national

New Delhi, Dec. 17: The CPM will protect private enterprise in Bengal but not public resources in the country.

The CPM politburo today began a two-day conclave here by raising the pitch for a legislation to neutralise a Supreme Court judgment that said government employees do not have a constitutional right to strike.

The party is pressing ahead with the agenda sidestepping the fact that the Bengal government was the first in the country to treat the infotech sector ' the most visible symbol of private enterprise in the state ' as an essential service to facilitate its operation during shutdowns.

At the politburo meeting, the majority of members from Bengal and Kerala insisted that government employees be armed with the right to strike.

Faced with such an overwhelming opinion, Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, who had equated frequent bandhs to 'a disease', chose to tread with caution on strikes today.

'This is not a state but a national issue. Let the party decide,' Bhattacharjee said.

Asked about Bhattacharjee's comment, politburo member and senior Citu leader M.K. Pandhe said: 'The party has a clear opinion in the matter. The right to strike is a fundamental right.'

Politburo member Sitaram Yechury said it was up to the government to decide the mechanism by which it will ensure the right to strike. 'There are various options before the government,' he added.

The change can be done through either a constitutional amendment bill or an amendment to the Industrial Disputes Act, which allows non-government industrial workers to go on strike. The act covers workers in the private sector but employees of few big private companies go on strike these days.

The CPM is not insisting on a constitutional amendment bill. 'The IDA can be amended so that government employees will have the right to strike,' a CPM leader said.

If the CPM decides to stick to its guns, it will need to put pressure on the Centre. Union law minister H.R. Bhardwaj had said earlier that the government does not want to widen the ambit of the act.


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