The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Citu roars and tries to rally other unions

Aug. 6: The Citu has threatened to reply with “another strike” and its parent CPM has decided to hit the streets to build “public opinion” against the Supreme Court ruling that declared strikes by government employees illegal.

The Trinamul Congress, too, reacted sharply but the Congress and the BJP-backed Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) tempered their criticism.

Openly speaking out against the judgment, a Citu leader said: “We will give a reply to the judgment with a strike.”

Despite the unanimous opposition to the verdict, divisions were evident. “We will not join the Citu in the strike,” said BMS president Hansubhai Dave in Delhi.

The Congress-backed Intuc general secretary Chandidas Sinha added: “Our working committee is meeting on the 11th of this month and this matter will be discussed.”

Dave said he believed that seeking a review petition would be a better way to oppose the judgment.

The divisions are forcing the Citu to explore the possibility of building a consensus with other unions. Citu general secretary Chittabrata Mujumdar, who felt that “the apex court cannot decide whether the workers will go on strike or not”, said the union is lining up a joint convention that will include the Intuc and the BMS to discuss such “an important national issue”.

The CPM convened a special secretariat meeting during the day to discuss the matter.

Anil Biswas, the CPM’s Bengal secretary, said the working class and the middle and lower middle class achieved the right to strike after a prolonged struggle. “We believe that the court’s order is totally unacceptable to the poor, downtrodden people as well as the middle-income group,” he added.

He said the CPM would begin a programme from tomorrow to create public opinion against the verdict. Party workers will organise street-corner meetings and processions across the state.

Trinamul Congress legislator Pankaj Banerjee said there is no question of the government employees forgoing their right to strike. “It is one of their fundamental rights. Employees resort to strike when the governments tend to become autocratic,” he said.

Former state Congress chief Somen Mitra described the right to strike as “the last weapon in the arsenal of the working class to realise their demands.” “We would have been happier if the apex court betrayed a softer attitude,” he said.

Bengal home secretary Amit Kiran Deb was uncertain whether all government employees had the right to strike.

“Officers, whether belonging to the all-India cadre or the West Bengal civil service, do not have the right to go on strike,” Deb told The Telegraph. “But about the others — those who are not officers — I will have to check papers and inform you.”

However, according to Rights, Duties and Obligations of State Government Employees framed by the Left Front government in 1978, employees can hold protest meetings in the non-VIP areas of Writers’ Buildings during lunch break, officials said. Protest meetings are not allowed at other times when the office is in session.

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