The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Flushout begins with SSKM union stables

Calcutta, Feb. 6: Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s government today took on trade unions, including the CPM’s own Citu, by locking up their offices on the SSKM Hospital premises.

The never-before drive was part of a move to prise open the unions’ grip on hospitals.

Chittaranjan Maity, the director of medical education, said the government would ensure the eviction of union offices from hospitals across Bengal. “Our declared policy is rid all hospitals in the city and in the districts of trade union offices,” Maity told The Telegraph.

Officials said the unions operating out of SSKM, considered the best among government hospitals, “should not be surprised” because they had been put on notice. The unions were asked to clear out by January 31.

The Trinamul Congress-led Progressive Employees’ Union of the SSKM Group of Hospitals and the CPM’s Karmachari Samity were among the unions that had virtually made hospital rooms their assets. The CPM-controlled government employees’ body, Co-ordination Committee, also had its SSKM unit sealed in the hour-long operation.

The action against trade unions follows a groundswell of public anger against the increasing politicisation of health institutions in the state and is a first in 26 years of Left Front rule.

The “weeding out” operation, as senior health officials described it, began around 1 pm when a large police contingent moved into the SSKM campus and went about locking all the union offices. The force did not spare the office of the CPM-controlled Association for Health Service Doctors.

There was no resistance from members of any of the unions and policemen and hospital officials went about locking up the offices in peace. “We did not face any problem evicting the union members from their rooms. There was not even a minimum resistance,” said Anuj Sharma, a deputy commissioner of police.

In December, the government had issued a notice asking the unions to vacate their offices on the hospital premises. In January, it had made a futile attempt to evict them. Then the health department sought cooperation from the unions.

Sources at SSKM said all the employees’ unions, except the one led by Trinamul that moved high court seeking its intervention, had agreed to the government’s proposal of closing down the offices.

“We filed a petition in court on February 4 and it agreed to hear our case after a month. But the government today locked up all the union offices. We had wanted an alternative place to run our trade union activities,” said Madan Mitra, the leader of the Trinamul-run union of hospital employees that occupied six rooms.

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