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Business and bandh mix
- Govt to talk industrialisation, union to shut workplaces
Nirupam Sen

Calcutta, Aug. 19: The right hand will try to unlock a factory tomorrow and the left will shut down almost every other such facility in Bengal. But unlike in the adage, the two hands of the CPM know exactly what they are doing.

By the time the state sli-thers into another bandh- induced slumber tomorrow, Writers’ Buildings will stir to life to talk about the future of the Tata car factory with representatives of the Trinamul Congress.

Bengal industries minister Nirupam Sen today washed the government’s hands of tomorrow’s all-India general strike, saying the CPM had nothing to do with the shutdown call given by Citu.

He said the talks with Trinamul chief Mamata Banerjee over the contentious 400 acres in Singur would be held as scheduled.

“The question of justifying tomorrow’s strike does not arise since we have not called it. It is up to those who have called the strike to make it a success. If people respond to the strike, it would be successful,” he said.

The Citu would not see the irony, despite having forced the shutdown.

“Our strike is not anti-industry but to protest the Centre’s anti-labour, anti-economic policies, including moves to amend labour laws, divestment, unemployment and price rise,” Bengal Citu secretary Kali Ghosh said. “Above all, it is against the Indo-US nuclear deal that would compromise our national sovereignty.”

If anyone is doubting Citu’s “pro-industry” credentials, here’s proof: the union wants work at the Tata factory in Singur to “progress”.

“We have called the general strike but workers of Tata Motors will decide whether to work tomorrow or not. We are not going to stop them forcibly. In fact, we want progress in Tata Motors’ work in Singur,” Ghosh said.

State Citu president and CPM leader Shyamal Chakraborty said the strike would not hamper the industrialisation talks. “There will be no problem for ministers to attend office at Writers’ Buildings tomorrow. It will be the same with Partha Chatterjee, who enjoys cabinet rank as leader of the Opposition in the Assembly,” he said.

Chakraborty did not clarify whether he was saying that in the Citu’s scheme of things, only ministers, not ordinary people, had the right to free movement and work.

But Trinamul’s Chatterjee, whose party knows a trick or two about enforcing bandhs, said: “I will not ask for security from the state government for travelling to Writers’. If bandh supporters prevent me, I shall return home straight.”

For Mamata, the shutdown has thrown up a bargaining chip. “I am urging industrialists present here to persuade the government to resolve the Singur issue. In return, I will consider solving the bandh problem,” she told an interactive session at the Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Sources in her party later said it was a tongue-in-cheek remark.

“The ruling party has called a bandh tomorrow…. Is this democracy? Bandh should be a tool to be used by the Opposition,” she said.

Careful not to send “wrong” signals to the audience made of industrialists, she added: “It is not that we favour bandhs and gheraos. But it’s a tool of protest that we use as a last resort.”

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