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Buddha promises IT strike shield

Calcutta Oct. 7: Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's government vowed today to protect information technology and IT-enabled services companies in Bengal from disruptions caused by strikes and bandhs.

'As far as the IT and ITES companies are concerned, I can say that they experienced the last strike on September 29,' said Bhattacharjee after an hour-long meeting. 'What happened on that day would not recur in Bengal again.'

At the meeting with heads of IT and ITES companies at Writers' Buildings, Bhattacharjee held out the promise of a better future. The meeting was called to reassure the industry, which came under assault from the CITU during the September 29 strike.

'This menace (strike) is known to me. I know everything (the details of the organised assault on IT personnel on the bandh day). I can assure you that strongest action will be taken against such perpetrators in the future. I will deal with the matter at the administrative and political levels,' said Bhattacharjee, upset after hearing the executives' bandh-day experiences.

He promised the heads of companies that he would convey their concern to the state CPM leadership.

Among those present were IT minister Manabendra Mukherjee, IT secretary G.D. Gautama, Indu Khattar of Wipro, Ajayendra Mukherjee of Tata Consultancy Services, Siddharth Mukherjee of Cognizant Technology Solutions, V.V.R. Babu of ITC Infotech representing TiE and Roopen Roy of PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The infotech heads cited several instances ' puncturing of tyres of cars taking IT personnel to their offices, tearing off special stickers, stone throwing and physical obstruction ' to buttress their contention that the strike had hit the IT and ITES companies severely.

'We informed the chief minister that our customers are threatening to take business elsewhere and the image of Calcutta has taken a beating on account of the September 29 strike,' said Khattar, head of Wipro in Calcutta.

'We told him we suffered considerable losses that day, and that made us very angry,' said Roy of PriceWaterhouseCoopers. 'If trade unions have the democratic right to call a bandh, then we, too, have the right to work on a bandh day if we want to. The government must see to it that we are able to do that.'

Bhattacharjee touched the collective chord of the company heads by asserting that the people's right to go to their workplaces on a bandh day was as fundamental as the trade unions sponsoring the bandh.

'We felt reassured when he said this,' said Babu. 'In many ways, we got the confidence that we sought from the government.'

Bikram Dasgupta, chairman and managing director , Globsyn Technologies, said: 'It's an encouraging sign to see the chief minister taking such a proactive stand. He has categorically assured us that such events will not recur.'

It was the same message from IT minister Mukherjee. 'Everyone has the right to become organised' but trade unionism does not signify disturbance,' he said.

'With the investment-friendly image of state having taken a blow, the chief minister has issued a strong statement that he will not allow this to happen again. He has reiterated the government's commitment to developing IT and ITES investment in Bengal,' Gautama said.

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