| The office of the zilla parishad after it was ransacked by Intuc supporters. Picture by Surajit Roy
Malda, Aug. 6: Intuc supporters went on the rampage in Malda town today, the first day of the 72-hour general strike called against a Bengal government order asking the Englishbazar Municipality to sack 450 casual workers.
The state government believes that most of the 700 casual workers of the civic body have been employed illegally.
Police and the district administration were caught unawares when the supporters took to the streets around 11am and ransacked the head post office and the branch offices of Indian Oversees Bank and Allahabad Bank. They also damaged two government buses and punctured the tyres of vehicles caught on the roads. All commercial establishments remained shut.
Though the Intuc did not set up any roadblocks, there was no respite for the commuters. Another 72-hour strike called by the commercial vehicle owners’ forum, demanding the withdrawal of motorised van-riskshaws, also began today.
The wrath of the Intuc supporters did not spare the office of the Congress-controlled zilla parishad either, pointing to a deep divide in the party ranks. The Intuc is the labour arm of the Congress.
The fault-line became more evident later in the day. District police superintendent Dilip Mondal, asked by reporters why his force was caught napping, revealed that Congress leader and sabhadhipati of the zilla parishad Gautam Chakraborty had told the district magistrate over phone late last night that the strike had been withdrawn.
“So we did not take any precautionary measures as is done on such occasions,” the police chief said. He added that two Intuc supporters have been arrested for damaging government property.
Chakraborty admitted that he had rung up the district magistrate, Chittaranjan Das, last night to tell him that the strike would not be implemented. “I am not only embarrassed, but really shocked. (The district president of the Intuc Biswanath) Ghosh had announced the withdrawal of the movement yesterday in the presence of Union minister Priya Ranjan Das Munshi and district Congress president Ruby Noor,” he said.
“I was shocked to see the way the bandh supporters vandalised my office. Even the chairman of the Englishbazar municipality, Narendranath Tiwari (also of the Congress), had to turn back from the gate of the civic office after he found it locked,” the sabhadhipati added.
Tiwari later offered his resignation to Ruby Noor, though as the chairman of the civic board he should have officially submitted the letter to the Sadar subdivisional officer.
The district president of the Intuc, Biswanath Ghosh, on the other hand, said the trade union body had never withdrawn the 72-hour bandh.
“We shall continue our movement until the order asking the municipality to sack the casual workers is withdrawn. Once the strike ends, we shall start an indefinite fast in front of the bungalow of the district magistrate with all 700 casual workers,” Ghosh said.