| Writers’ employees sit idle during the strike on Friday. Picture by Amit Dutta
Calcutta, Sept. 27: Trouble erupted at Writers’ Buildings this morning when members of the CPM-controlled State Co-ordination Committee entered into a scuffle with media persons who went to cover the pen-down strike called by nine anti-Left unions against the government’s bonus rollback.
The camera of a lensman was smashed even as others from the media were abused and shoved. Journalists were escorted out of their torment by the police.
The strike was the culmination of a week-long agitation since finance minister Asim Dasgupta announced the 50 per cent slash in the festival bonus and advance for state government employees.
The chief minister initially sided with his party’s union while reacting to the incident. “Though it is unfortunate, journalists have no right to walk into any office without permission of the ministers, secretaries and directors concerned. Don’t overstep the line and go by the rules of the game,” said an agitated Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.
“Your accreditation card only entitles you to enter Writers’. Please know what you are not supposed to do. Can you roam around different departments in Delhi as you are doing here' I repeat, don’t overstep.”
However, after the blast, he hastened to “apologise” for the harassment and humiliation of the media personnel and promised to replace the camera.
“A section of the striking employees actually invited photographers to take their pictures and instigated willing employees by using filthy remarks to create an ugly scene. In the melee, some photographers were beaten up. It is my own experience how photographers of the electronic media chase an event and scramble for bytes. Now I understand why and how Princess Diana was killed in an attempt to escape a chase by the paparazzi,” Bhattacharjee said.
“My government has taken serious note of today’s incident. I have asked the heads of three departments to identify the guilty employees. They will be punished by tomorrow,” he added.
At a brief meeting with the finance minister, Bhattacharjee entrusted him to take action against the employees who had organised today’s strike. He also made it clear that no Writers’ employee will be allowed to hold demonstrations outside the hour-long recess.
When the media crew went to various departments in the secretariat to gauge the impact of the strike, angry co-ordination committee members tried to prevent them from taking pictures of striking employees.
Co-ordination committee joint secretary Jyoti Prasad Basu, however, said its members were not involved in the assault. “This is a pre-planned move by the striking organisations to hit the headlines,” he said.