The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Striking end

Sir — The Union government deserves praise for the way it dealt with the executives of public sector oil companies who had threatened to hold the nation at ransom through a three-day-long strike (“Government breaks oil strike with sack stick”, Jan 10). The Oil Sector Officers’ Association was striking against alleged anomalies in the proposed wage hike of the executives. The employees of public sector units are amongst the best paid in a country where even workers in the private sector are grossly underpaid. And yet the PSU babus are forever complaining about their salaries. It must be remembered that any hike in the wages of PSU workers raises the price index, and it is the ordinary people who have to bear the brunt. After the recommendations of the sixth pay commission are implemented, PSU workers will take home almost double of what they are taking now. In the private sector, on the other hand, a pay hike is hardly ever more than ten per cent of the salary. To keep parity between the salaries in the two sectors, the government should never hike the salaries of PSU employees by, say, more than twenty per cent of their earlier pay. This would also put a lid on the ever-increasing demands of government officers.

Yours faithfully,
Subhash Chandra Agrawal, Dariba, Delhi

Sir — The prime minister, Manmohan Singh, should take disciplinary action against those oil executives who had called for a strike. The PSU officers should properly perform their duties before they seek a pay hike. They must work more to reduce the costs of operation of the oil companies. Only then can the officers be considered eligible for a raise.

Yours faithfully,
M.M. Kale, Kakinada, Andhra Pradesh

Sir — The executives of the oil companies had no right to jeopardize our normal life through their strike. They have forfeited the sympathy of the people through their high-handedness. The government has behaved commendably this time in forcing the officers to call off the strike. It should have a plan ready to keep the gas fields and refineries running with army help in case such a strike is called again. The oil executives are some of the most highly paid PSU employees, although not necessarily the most efficient ones. Was their call for a better pay hike justified? They should have considered the present realities of the market before asking for a fatter pay packet.

Yours faithfully,
Ashok Ghosh, Calcutta

Future tense

Sir — Sumanta Sen’s article, “Hope for the best” (Jan 14), made a pragmatic analysis of the situation in Bangladesh following Sheikh Hasina Wajed’s landmark victory in last month’s general elections. Much to the surprise of pollsters, Wajed’s Awami League almost wiped out the opposition alliance led by Begum Khaleda Zia. The latter’s five-year rule, which saw the rise of different fundamentalist groups to power, had filled every level of the government with corruption. It indirectly caused the army to take over the country’s administration on the pretext of stemming the rot. But the freedom-loving and democratically inclined citizens of Bangladesh did not take to the military regime kindly. It was public outrage against the army that had forced it to hold the elections ultimately.

The people’s joy over Wajed’s triumph was evident in the countrywide celebrations. It is true, as Sen says, that it would be unwise to read too much into the win. At the same time, Wajed’s secular credentials cannot but make the people of Bangladesh hope for better times to come. Her victory is also favourable for us, since she is likely to remember the way India lent its support to the struggle for Bangladesh’s freedom led by her father, Sheikh Mujibur Rehman, in 1971.

I have my ancestral house in Laksam, which is a town in the Comilla district of Bangladesh. I visit my birthplace occasionally, and my interactions with the locals have convinced me that the people of Bangladesh still retain friendly feelings towards India, especially towards West Bengal. Perhaps this bond has much to do with the common cultural roots of the Bengalis on either side of the border. Unfortunately, fundamentalist forces in both countries are trying hard to destroy this amity. Hopefully, Wajed will respond positively to the call of the Indian prime minister for purposeful negotiation of such pending problems.

Sen has been quite candid in pointing out Wajed’s failures during her previous stint in office with regard to the problems posed by fundamentalists. It is true, as Sen says, that she did precious little to check cross-border infiltration. Wajed must cease to be in denial about the existence of the terrorists’ hideouts in Bangladesh, if she is serious about the welfare of her own nation as well as that of India. The daughter of Bangabandhu Mujibur Rehman must muster the courage to fight the ills besetting the country since its birth. She has to be uncompromising in her stance against communalism, which continues to cause a large-scale migration of Hindus from Bangladesh to India.

Yours faithfully,
P.B. Saha, Calcutta

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