The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Strike, what strike'
At Singur, Citu sweats for ‘public utility’

Singur, Aug. 8: A lesson for Citu — from Citu.

While millions of workers loyal to the Left union laid down the tools of their trade today, a few hundred fellow comrades struck a blow for work in a small Bengal village.

The 350-odd workers, all affiliated to the CPM labour arm, defied their union’s call and joined other construction labourers to ensure that work at the Tata Motors plant in Singur did not suffer because of the nation-wide strike in the unorganised sector.

“The Tata Motors project is a public utility and of national importance. That is why we decided to ask workers engaged in the project to report for duty today,” said Dibakar Das, the convener of the Citu-affiliated Paschimbanga Nirman Karmi Union (Singur Tata project).

“We felt that construction here should not be affected by today’s strike.”

Citu had called the strike to press for jobs and social security cover for workers in the unorganised sector.

At the Tata site in Singur, about 45km from Calcutta, work went on in full swing. It was business as usual in the engine, paint and welding shops of the upcoming plant while construction of iron beams went ahead just as any other day.

The decision to not join the strike was taken last evening by the local Citu unit. When told that the move was being seen as an embarrassment for the state Citu leadership, Das said the project was a “big challenge” for the state government.

“We had no intention of embarrassing the Citu leadership. We believe completion of work at the site is a matter of prestige for us, given the controversy Opposition parties have created,” he added.

Asked about the local unit’s decision, state Citu secretary Kali Ghosh said: “We never talked about keeping the Tata project outside the purview of today’s strike. It may have been a decision taken at the district or local level. We are trying to find out the details.”

Local CPM leader Srikanta Chatterjee justified the move not to stay away as work at the project has suffered because of heavy rain.

“We thought there should be no further disruption and took the decision to ask workers to report for duty last night. We also did not prevent anybody from working,” he said.

Some workers were delighted. “Nobody stopped us,” said Dinabandhu Das, a daily labourer. “We all worked spontaneously.”

Citu loyalist Sheikh Mansoor said it was more of a diktat from the local unit. “I had thought of skipping work. But our leaders told me I will have to report for duty.”

Apparently, as a face-saver, workers loyal to the Citu-backed Karmi Union took out a rally on the Durgapur Expressway after work was over for the day at the Tata Motors site.

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