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Contractors call off strike

More than 3,000 civic contractors, on strike since the past six months, called off their agitation on Thursday night.

Truce was declared after the contractors accepted mayor Subrata Mukherjee’s proposal to clear their dues till September 2001.The amount to be paid by the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) will be a little over Rs 30 crore. A spokesman for the CMC Contractors and Suppliers Forum said members would resume work from Friday.

Calcutta High Court, earlier, modified its order and allowed the CMC to appoint “external” contractors and suppliers on Thursday. The modification of Justice Bhaskar Bhattacharya’s order now allows the civic body to create fresh panels of contractors and suppliers.

Last July, Justice Bhattacharya, in response to a petition filed by the Calcutta Corporation Contractors and Suppliers Association, had directed the CMC not to enlist new contractors and suppliers until the dues of the listed contractors were cleared.

The association, which claimed it had more than 440 members, alleged that around Rs 180 crore was due and “the CMC was not showing any interest in this regard”. The contractors had informed the court that they were boycotting civic work and were not filling fresh tenders issued by the CMC after May 20 this year. The petitioners sought an order from the court, directing the authority not to appoint new contractors and suppliers, till their payments were made.

The court order had put the civic body in a spot. The agitating contractors stalled major repairs, including cleaning of drains, in many areas. The civic authorities then appealed to Justice Bhattacharya, seeking permission for appointment of new contractors and suppliers.

CMC counsel Alok Ghosh said that the citizens were exposed to major health hazards as the agitating contractors were preventing their colleagues from joining work. “In at least 17 wards of the city, drains are clogged for weeks, due to the unprecedented boycott. A malaria epidemic is almost waiting to happen,” Ghosh said. He said some essential work, like repairs on Ho Chi Minh Sarani and the construction of a wall at Lenin Park, in Esplanade, were also pending.

Ghosh added that the civic authorities would frame guidelines to clear the dues of contractors and suppliers.

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