Darjeeling, March 6: The Bengal government has issued a circular in the hills warning employees that their salary would be cut and their absence recorded in career documents if they failed to work on the days the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha has announced a closure of government offices.
Darjeeling district magistrate Saumitra Mohan confirmed that his office had got the circular this afternoon. “My office has received the fax and it will be sent to all government offices for compliance of the order,” he said.
Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri, when told about the government stricture against the strike, said the agitation for Gorkhaland “would carry on”.
The Morcha has called for closure of all government offices from March 9 to 27, apart from two 48-hour general strikes on March 14-15 and March 21-22 as part of its Gorkhaland agitation.
In Calcutta, home secretary Basudeb Banerjee, when asked about the order, said: “The order which is applicable to the rest of the state during a bandh for state government employees is equally applicable to the hills.”
According to Writers’ sources, the order signed by chief secretary Sanjay Mitra says employees must work on the strike days and no leave would be granted during the strike. If any employee is not present for work, it will be treated as dies non — which means no work, no pay. A remark will also be made in the employee’s records that may affect promotions in the future.
The penalty for the absence can be avoided only on the grounds of urgent circumstances, for which the employees must produce documentary evidence, the source said.
“The GTA set-up is a part of the state. The government is against bandhs. There cannot be different rules for employees in different parts of the same state,” said a senior bureaucrat.
“This measure will further dissuade the Morcha from going ahead with their programme,” he said.
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee issued her first stricture against office shutdowns last year when the government sent out a circular saying employees would have to be present for work during a CPM-backed industrial strike on February 28, 2012.
Sources in the Morcha said the employee unions of the party today held a meeting in Darjeeling to discuss the development.
A party source said: “During the meeting it was decided that even though it is a holiday for government employees on Saturday, all of them would be asked to assemble in Darjeeling town on that day to work out future strategies. It was also decided that the employees would come out on the streets on Monday and set up pickets in front of government offices.”
Giri, who spoke over phone from Delhi, said today: “I do not know the details. However, our agitation for a separate state of Gorkhaland would carry on.”
This is not the first time that the Morcha has called for a shutdown of central and state offices — the GTA offices are an addition after the hill set-up was formed. This form of agitation has been a routine affair since October 2007. The Morcha would frequently close down offices for days together and reopen them only for disbursement of salaries.
“The Left Front government had taken a no-confrontation policy after the Morcha had started its agitation in 2007. The previous state government did not take action,” a senior government official said.
This is the first time after Mamata Banerjee became the chief minister that the Morcha has called for closure of all government offices.
On February 9, the Morcha had called a 12-hour general strike to protest against the state’s decision to set up a Lepcha Development Board outside the purview of the GTA.
As February 9 was a Saturday, it was a holiday for state government employees. Also, since the day was a second Saturday, the GTA offices were closed — GTA follows the central government norms and remain shut on second and fourth Saturdays of the month.
March 9, the day from which the Morcha is expected to close the government offices is also a second Saturday.
Many in the hills were hoping that the Morcha would withdraw its strike following requests from both President Pranab Mukherjee and Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde to Morcha chief Bimal Gurung.
The Gurung-led delegation that is in Delhi met the President today. (See Metro)
The Morcha leaders have told Mukherjee and Shinde that they will discuss the appeal to withdraw the strike at the party’s central committee meeting, likely to be held after the delegation returns from Delhi on March 8 or 9.