The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sermon goes up in smoke
- Citu lends muscle to another bandh, for right to strike

Calcutta, Nov. 21: Bengal has to brace itself for another shutdown to uphold “the workers’ right to strike” though top CPM leaders have made it a routine to speak about the need to improve work culture in the state.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s toil to present a more industry-friendly face of the state while seeking fresh investments has to take the backseat in the face of another bandh that his party’s trade union wing, Citu, has decided to support.

The Citu voiced support for the all-India strike on February 11 called by the Central Government Employees’ Federation to protest against the NDA government’s “anti-people policies and attempts to deny the workers their right to strike”.

The union will also defy Bhattacharjee’s move to ban strikes and other militant trade union activities inside the Special Economic Zones in the state. “We are not bothered about the proposals to restrict trade unionism in the SEZs (the special zones). Workers will carry out their normal trade union activities and exercise their right to strike, if necessary, no matter whether their units belong to the SEZs,” state Citu secretary Chittabrata Majumdar told reporters on the second day of the trade union’s conference.

Citu general secretary M.K. Pandhe said: “The federation took the decision to strike work for a day at a convention in Delhi on September 26. We shall support the strike and appeal to all other trade union organisations to follow suit,” he said.

Majumdar said Citu would soon convene a meeting of all trade unions to discuss a unanimous strategy to combat “the Centre’s anti-working class policies”. He claimed that apart from the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), the trade union unit of the BJP, all unions were expected to support the strike.

“BMS had initially supported our move and its representatives even attended the September 26 convention. However, it backed out at the last moment when the convention decided to observe an all-India strike,” said Majumdar. He, however, added that a representative of the BMS in Bengal had attended the inaugural session of the state Citu conference and promised support to a united trade union action.

Apart from workers in the organised sector, teachers, state government and private sector employees would go on strike on February 11, said Majumdar. Asked if it would not virtually be a Bangla bandh, he said: “You can well imagine the situation if workers and employees of every shade support the strike.”

Referring to the recent carnage at the Dalgaon tea estate in Jalpaiguri in which a former Citu leader’s house was burnt and 19 people were charred by angry workers, Majumdar said: “We are keeping a watch on the situation. We are trying to fill the communication gap between workers and the union leaders in some places and have launched a rectification drive.”

The state Citu chief attributed the union’s failure to maintain its hold on workers to the rapid growth in its size. “It is not unusual for stray incidents to occur when the organisation grows at a fast pace. However, we have alerted our functionaries against violence.”

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