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‘Attack’ leader in hospital siege
- Burdwan Trinamul union chief pleads helplessness, patients suffer

Durgapur, Dec. 21: The Trinamul trade union leader in Durgapur accused of assaulting a Jai Balaji official led a three-hour INTTUC demonstration today in front of the biggest private hospital in the region with the district union boss pleading helplessness in controlling him.

Armed with a charter of demands such as a hike in wages of workers, employment of local youths and free treatment for BPL cardholders, 40-odd INTTUC workers led by Ashim Pramanik shouted slogans in front of the main gate of the 250-bed Mission Hospital from 10am, inconveniencing patients and hospital staff who did not dare enter.

Some patients waited in cars outside the hospital till the protesters dispersed around 1pm. Many relatives said they could not meet patients during the general visiting hour starting at 11am.

Burdwan INTTUC chief Prabhat Chatterjee, who had claimed after last Saturday’s assault on the Jai Balaji Industries general manager that Pramanik was not a union member, today appeared to unwittingly accept that Pramanik had ties with Trinamul’s labour arm.

“I am unable to control Pramanik,” he said.

Pramanik, against whom an FIR has been lodged for the alleged assault, had been absconding since Monday.

“The authorities are making profit by exploiting Group D employees. They often suspend workers for protesting,” said Pramanik, who has been barred from entering the Jai Balaji premises.

Pramanik said he would only listen to all-India INTTUC president Subrata Mukherjee.

“I used to lead Intuc in Durgapur a few years ago. But I never led any INTTUC union there. I don’t know any Ashim Pramanik in Durgapur,” Mukherjee said.

The police said it was “not necessary” to arrest Pramanik. “It is not necessary to arrest anybody charged under a non-bailable section,” said S. Murugan, the assistant commissioner of police (east).

Hospital authorities said it had become “impossible” to deal with multiple INTTUC factions.

“Earlier, we used to negotiate wages and other issues with Prabhat Chatterjee. But since July, another INTTUC union has started sending us letters saying the wage agreement we made with Chatterjee is unlawful and henceforth, we will have to discuss with the new faction. But Chatterjee asked us to ignore the new faction. The new union’s members even decide what food will be cooked at the canteen,” said Mission Hospital chief executive Prabir Mukherjee.

“The new union is putting pressure on us to sack those workers who don’t follow its diktat,” Mukherjee said.

Sources said the new faction was led by Durgapur mayor Apurba Mukherjee, to whose group Pramanik claims he belongs.

As the union members made a ruckus outside the hospital, patients and their relatives had a harrowing time.

“My wife is suffering from an urinary infection. I brought her here all the way from Bankura only to find the union members demonstrating in front of the hospital. We waited for at least an hour before entering,” said Rajat Chattaraj.