The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Citu goes hammer and tongs at CM

Calcutta, Feb. 10: Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's repeated warnings against militant trade unionism today seemed to trigger a CPM resolution in favour of strikes at the party's state conference.

'The working classes consider strike as the last weapon to realise their demands,' said the resolution moved by Citu state secretary Kali Ghosh and supported by colleague Rajdeo Goala at the conference at Kamarhati, North 24-Parganas.

In the presence of the chief minister, who sat through the day-long sessions, several delegates said his repeated warnings against organising bandhs and strikes had hurt the state's trade union movement.

'The chief minister's repeated admissions of militant trade unionism in Bengal at meetings of chambers of commerce had strengthened the hands of capitalists and industrialists, most of whom don't bother about the working classes,' a Citu leader said on the second day of the conclave.

Trade union leaders and CPM functionaries from Calcutta, North 24-Parganas and Hooghly also observed that Bhattacharjee had sent a wrong signal to the people when he 'branded trade unions as militant and held them responsible for closure of industrial units'.

Nirupam Sen, commerce and industry minister and second-in-charge in the Bhattacharjee cabinet, too, defended trade unionism.

'Some say that the industrial climate in Bengal has been ruined by workers' movement. But I can tell you this is not true. It is the policy of the previous governments at the Centre which had closed down a number of public sector units in Bengal,' he told a seminar held in Baranagar on the occasion of the conference.

The resolution, which was passed, however, underlined the need to organise strikes only when all bargaining with the management failed.

'The aim of workers' movement is not to close down industrial units but to help them work smoothly and protect the interest of working class.'

'Trade unionism does not come in the way of new industries. The working class feels the country does not only belong to the owners of industries but also to them,' the resolution said in an apparent reference to Bhattacharjee's intense efforts to woo new industries.

'Under no circumstances will the working class give up its right to strike and act as collaborators of the capitalists. For the same reason, the trade unions also cannot accept any attempts to curb its activities.'

Bhattacharjee, who had faced flak from party colleagues during district committee conferences last month, is likely to give his reply tomorrow.

Foreign funds furore

Another policy that came under fire was the chief minister's invitation of foreign direct investment in the state though he had qualified that workers' interests would be kept in mind.

Sources said several delegates from Calcutta, Howrah, Hooghly and North 24-Parganas threw questions on the perceived dichotomy between the government's pro-FDI and the party's anti-FDI positions. 'How then can we criticise the Congress-led government in Delhi for allowing FDI' asked a delegate from Hooghly.

CPM state secretary Anil Biswas calmed them, saying 'FDI is necessary, but we must be careful about accepting it. We should ensure that inviting FDI does not come in the way of our political ideology'.

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