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Two orders, two faces

Calcutta, Feb. 22: The Mamata Banerjee government had granted up to six days of special casual leave to 1,000-odd elected delegates of a Trinamul-backed employees’ union less than two months ago, according to the copy of an order with The Telegraph.

The permission in December stands out in sharp contrast with an order issued by the government yesterday that no leave would be granted to employees on February 28 when a Left-backed general strike has been called.

The order on Tuesday was a departure from the years of blessings the Left had showered on its sympathisers, enabling them to take part in bandhs.

However, what chief minister Mamata Banerjee could have held up as a model of badly needed work culture in Bengal now runs the risk of being branded partisan because of the December order.

The earlier order (No. 11625-F (P), dated December 30, 2011) granting the special leave was issued by the finance department.

The order mentioned the reason: “Grant of special casual leave to enable the elected delegates of the State Government Employees Federation (WB) (Unified) to attend their 6th Triennial State Conference.”

The State Government Employees Federation a Trinamul-backed union has been at the forefront at Writers’ to neutralise the Left-supported Co-ordination Committee.

“The decision of not granting leave on February 28 is nothing but double standard. If this government is so concerned about work culture, why did they grant special casual leave to 1,000-plus employees? Was it because it was a Trinamul event?” asked a senior state government official.

According to him, the state government has the discretion to grant special casual leave beyond the stipulated 14 days of casual leave to its employees.

In the order, signed by an assistant secretary in the finance department, the employees were divided into three categories based on their place of work to decide on the number of days of special casual leave for the programme, where the speakers included finance minister Amit Mitra and central minister Mukul Roy.

Industries minister Partha Chatterjee, who had defended yesterday’s directive, said he was not aware of the December order. “Our position is very clear. We are not against employees forming associations. But trade unionism among government employees will not be allowed,” Chatterjee told The Telegraph.

Opposition leader Surjya Kanta Mishra mentioned the government’s doublespeak at a news conference outside the Assembly this afternoon.

“The government granted leave for a political purpose. Many of these employees even took part in the panchayat department employees’ conference, which was held at the same time,” said Mishra.

According to Mishra and several members of the Co-ordination Committee, the government did not have the right to deny leave on a particular day.

During the Left rule, government employees enjoyed a provision that allowed them to take leave if they did not show up on a bandh day.

“The order makes it clear that the claim of improving work culture is only on paper. This government only wants to foil the CPM’s bandh,” said a government official.

The December order also indicated that the new government has no qualms in following a Left model when it suits its purpose. The grant of special casual leave started during the Left regime and the members of the Co-ordination Committee benefited from it.

“Now Trinamul leaders in the State Government Employees Federation will be the beneficiaries,” said a government employee.

According to him, the Trinamul-backed federation is wielding the same clout as the Co-ordination Committee in terms of extracting favours such as special casual leave. “Only 15 employees from Writers’ were eligible for the special casual leave as they were delegates. But records suggest that 45 employees took leave and no one asked any question,” he added.


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