Calcutta, Feb. 29: To smooth the ruffled feathers of Citu, the CPM’s labour arm that was ticked off by the party after forcing a bandh on the state last Tuesday, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s government has cleared more than 400 appointments that the union had demanded.
Four hundred thirty-seven assistant engineers and technical employees would be appointed in the West Bengal State Electricity Board and the Power Development Corporation Limited.
Power minister Mrinal Banerjee confirmed the government’s decision. “Letters are being sent to the assistant engineers and other staff as decided by the government.” He felt the recruitments would improve maintenance work in the plants.
The files on the appointments were lying with the finance department for the past two years. The cabinet gave its formal approval at its meeting on February 26, the day Citu’s state president and CPM central committee member Shyamal Chakraborty met Bhattacharjee, Banerjee and finance minister Asim Dasgupta to discuss its demands.
Sources said the cabinet decided to buy peace with the Citu after the CPM brass advised the government not to antagonise its labour wing before the Lok Sabha polls and spoil the prospects in some constituencies. The party had asked both the government and the union to avert any “war of words”.
The cabinet’s decision is being seen in political circles as a “compromise formula” to avert a direct confrontation between power department officials and Citu activists after Chakraborty accused the former of selling power to neighbouring states during peak hours by depriving rural areas in the state.
Chakraborty had also demanded appointment of about 1,500 people to man the power board’s substations, where contractors’ workers are now employed.
Sources said Citu’s meeting with the ministers went off smoothly after its leaders were told about the cabinet’s clearance to the appointment of 437 assistant engineers, operators and junior operating assistants.
In 2001, the power department had cleared the appointment of 150 junior operating assistants to run the substations. However, the finance department was sitting on the files, citing financial problems. At Thursday’s cabinet meeting, Dasgupta gave his nod to 105 of these posts.
No decision was taken on the remaining 45 as they were reserved for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
The assistant engineers would be posted at the plants in Bakreswar, Santaldi and Sagardighi.