The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Rebel staff under action cloud

Stern administrative measures will be taken against workers who had participated in an anti-government demonstration at Writers’ Buildings on Friday, finance minister Asim Dasgupta told reporters on Saturday. The agitation took place during a pre-lunch pen-down strike at the behest of nine employees’ unions.

According to Dasgupta, special secretary to the finance department Bikash Majumdar will inquire into Friday’s “happenings” at the state secretariat and submit his report to the government by October 7. Disciplinary action will be taken on the basis of his report, the minister said.

Nine trade unions, under the banner of the West Bengal Government Employees’ Union (Navaparjai), went for a pen-down strike at Writers’ Buildings on Friday to protest the government’s 50 per cent slash in Puja bonus and advance for state government employees. They shouted anti-government slogans and displayed posters. In course of the day, members of the CPM-controlled Co-ordination Committee of the State Government Employees also got into a scuffle with reporters.

Addressing a press conference on Saturday afternoon, the finance minister said a government order would be passed on Monday, detailing plans for curtailment of non-plan expenditure and ways to raise revenue. Such measures would help save over Rs 500 crore for the state exchequer in the current year, he said.

Dasgupta claimed that the funds crunch the state government has been facing is “solely because of certain Union government policies”.

“Everybody should appreciate that despite severe financial constraints, we are offering festival bonus and advance,” the finance minister added. He dismissed as “false propaganda” the claim made by Navaparjai that many states, like Goa, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Assam, were paying bonus to their employees.

Dasgupta ruled out any immediate meeting with staff representatives as the atmosphere was “not conducive for any such discussion”.

Commenting on the Centre’s announcement of the Rs 878-crore mid-term loan, Dasgupta said it would not result in any major relief to the government unless the interest was reduced from 12 per cent to eight. He said West Bengal had neither received the loan nor any communication from the Centre on its request for reducing the interest. He, however, conceded that the loan would help ease the state’s financial crisis.

Dasgupta said one of the major reasons for the financial crisis was the additional burden the state had to bear for the enhanced pay recommended by the Fifth Pay Commission. “We were compelled to raise the salary of state government employees as the Centre had done the same,” the minister added.

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