The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Strike applause only Citu can hear

Calcutta, Feb. 25: A day after putting life in Bengal in a 24-hour freeze frame, the Citu, one of the organisers of Tuesday’s industrial strike, today claimed that chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had actually appreciated the strike programme.

Responding to criticism that the Citu’s programme — ignored in other parts of the country — showed up Bhattacharjee’s Bengal in the old self-destructive mode, Kali Ghosh, secretary of the Citu’s Bengal unit, said Bhattacharjee did not convey any negative impressions to the Citu leadership about the programme.

“We get to see and talk to the chief minister more than the media. I am sorry to disappoint our critics, he has not uttered a single critical word in the course of daily interactions either with us or the CPM leadership. If anything, he is happy that we have been able to articulate so well popular sentiments on the issues raised by the trade unions,” Ghosh said.

Bhattacharjee was not available for comment as his government began an elaborate damage control exercise following the landmine blast in West Midnapore which blew up a vehicle killing eight policemen.

However, the chief minister is expected to meet Citu president Shyamal Chakraborty and other leaders in his Assembly chamber to discuss the trade union’s grievances, especially in relation to the state electricity board. Power minister Mrinal Banerjee, against whom the Citu has unveiled a movement, may be called to the meeting.

It is learnt that the state secretariat, which has found the Citu’s manner of protest “unacceptable”, has decided to support Bhattacharjee’s efforts at having a dialogue with the Citu on the SEB issue.

After the strike, the Citu explained to the chief minister that the programme would not affect his drive to bring in investments to the information technology sector, sources close to Chakraborty said.

“We have been telling the government that a day’s strike will not upset the IT drive,” said Chakraborty. The claim ignores several reports about cancellation of business coming Bengal’s way. It also goes completely against the government’s proclaimed objective of improving Bengal’s “image”.

Yesterday’s action — not to speak of instances where willing workers were intimidated — can only strengthen the image as a state of strikes.

Ghosh did not appear too concerned about the image that has seen Bengal plummet down the industrial ladder. He said the Left coalition in office for 26 years would be able to handle the criticism.

“Do remember that the government represents the labour also… and do remember that the government will not fall because the IT companies could not function because of the strike,” Ghosh said.

That the government will not fall — an arrogance derived from numbers in the Assembly — seems to be the issue at stake rather than the decline of Bengal.

FIR against ransack

The management of a chemical factory in Durgapur lodged an FIR with the Coke Oven police station after a group of persons led by a local CPM leader, identified as Debabrata Sai, ransacked the factory last afternoon. No one has been arrested.

A large group of Citu and CPM supporters assembled at the Ganga Rasayanik factory and beat up security guards and some workers inside. They also ransacked the office and damaged several computers, phones and some furniture.

Sai, however, denied leading yesterday’s attack.

A security guard, who was beaten up while on duty, said Citu workers waving red flags stormed the factory shouting slogans. “We did not raise our voices as we were outnumbered,” he added.

Swapan Das, production manager, confirmed yesterday’s attack. “Citu workers entered the factory and beat up our men and security staff after ransacking the office,” he added.

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