Lalbazar employees during the May 17 demonstration
Calcutta, Jan. 13: The Mamata Banerjee government today repealed an order by the Left Front government giving police the right to form unions, the move aimed at nipping any possibility of politics entering the force.
Mamata is the second Bengal chief minister after Siddhartha Shankar Ray to rid the force of unions. In 1975, Ray had de-recognised all police unions.
When the Left came to power in 1977, then chief minister Jyoti Basu issued an order to restore to the police force the right to form unions. In a recent notification, the state home department cancelled that order.
Mamata has instead proposed the formation of welfare boards that will look after the grievances and demands of the police up to the post of inspector.
Shortly after coming to power, Mamatas government had taken the decision to scrap all police unions.
The decision was prompted by an attack by constables and clerks in Lalbazar on the office of the Calcutta Police Association to demand immediate elections to select office-bearers on May 17. Passers-by had stopped to stare in disbelief at the custodians of the law fighting over who should control their union.
A source said the clash was triggered by Trinamul supporters in Lalbazar demanding that the Left-affiliated union relinquish charge like in the nearby seat of power, Writers.
A Calcutta police employee was arrested after Mamata had expressed her displeasure at the incident.
Home department sources said the move to derecognise the unions was part of the Trinamul-led governments effort to separate politics from key department such as police and education, something that the chief minister has been advocating.
According to the new proposal, police welfare boards will be formed in each district as well as the commissionerates in Calcutta, Howrah and Asansol. The boards will report to a central police welfare board headed by an officer of the rank of inspector-general of police.
There were three recognised police unions in the state — the West Bengal Police Association, Non-Gazetted Police Karmachari Samiti and the Calcutta Police Association — and two new unions owing allegiance to Trinamul in Calcutta.
While the first one is anti-Left, the other two have enjoyed the erstwhile ruling partys backing. The Trinamul-affiliated unions have yet to be officially recognised.
Senior police officers refused comment on the governments move.