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Union circus at Alipore zoo

Calcutta, June 28: Congress trade union Intuc today blocked the gates of Alipore zoo for two hours from noon to protest alleged attempts by the Trinamul labour arm to lure away its workers.

As the INTTUC announced a unit at the zoo today at a meeting outside the zoo gate, Intuc members gathered at the entrance and refused to let visitors enter between noon and 2pm.

Although tickets were sold, people were not allowed to enter, a senior zoo official said. Zoo sources said not too many visitors had come today because this is the “off season”.

The Intuc employees’ union at the zoo alleged that Trinamul workers had been trying to lure its members “with false promises” and also been “threatening” them since yesterday.

Urban development minister Firhad Hakim today launched the INTTUC unit, to be led by chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s brother Kartik Banerjee, at the meeting.

“Lots of development needs to be done at the zoo. Many projects are stalled because some outsiders are not letting the zoo authorities do any work. Our union will work for the development of the zoo and its employees,” Hakim told the gathering of 40 people.

Rakesh Singh, who leads the Intuc union at the zoo, alleged that since yesterday, Trinamul men had been visiting the employees’ quarters and trying to woo them into the INTTUC fold by making “false promises”.

“The Trinamul men told the employees that if they joined the INTTUC, contractual staff members would be made permanent. They also promised that the permanent employees would get additional benefits. They threatened some of the employees that they would be sacked if they did not attend today’s meeting,” he said.

Singh said his union blocked the zoo gate in protest. The Intuc leader claimed the area in front of the zoo was “protected under the CrPC’s Section 144” and so, “no meetings could be held there”. Police, however, said prohibitory orders were not in place outside the zoo.

The Intuc workers dispersed after the INTTUC meeting ended.

The Trinamul leadership denied Intuc’s allegations but said the INTTUC unit at the zoo needed to get itself registered with the registrar of unions in the labour department.

“For that, the INTTUC will need the support of at least 10 per cent of the zoo employees,” a zoo official said. Most of the zoo’s 230 employees are Intuc members.