The animals at Alipore zoo found a new champion in chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who on Thursday said it was fine to unionise the zoo but without trampling on the rights of the inhabitants.
Any response from the animals — none witnessed the programme where the chief minister inaugurated the newly-built electronic ticket plaza — to Mamata’s benevolence is yet to be known, but many outside the enclosures were left wondering if in today’s Bengal it was safer and wiser to walk on four legs.
“It is not wrong to do trade union but remember that this is a zoo and it belongs to the animals,” the chief minister said after throwing open the ticket plaza with 11 turnstile gates. “The primary responsibility of the employees is towards the animals. They cannot ignore the animals on the pretext of doing union.”
Pledging Rs 1 crore for the zoo’s uplift, Mamata said: “If you look after the birds and animals properly, God will bless you.”
Mamata’s ‘unionise but...’ sermon was interpreted by many as the chief minister encouraging her party to form a union in the zoo, one place the Trinamul Congress has failed to penetrate.
“There are two unions inside the zoo. While Citu only exists on paper, the Intuc wields clout. The Trinamul’s trade union wing has failed to displace it,” said a zoo official.
Rakesh Singh, the president of the Intuc-controlled Calcutta Zoological Garden Employees’ Association, alleged that the chief minister was politicising the zoo. “She indirectly encouraged her partymen to form a union inside the zoo, but the zoo employees will not accept Trinamul interference,” he said.
Mamata’s words “will energise” the Trinamul union, said a senior party activist in the area.
The chief minister also appointed urban development minister Firhad Hakim as a coordinator for various departments to help monitor and improve the condition of the the zoo. Why Hakim? “Because he stays close by, he will be able to give time to the development of the zoo,” said Mamata.
Hakim stays in Chetla while state forest minister Hiten Burman is based in north Bengal.