Bengal government, opposition on warpath over strike

Kolkata : Even as the West Bengal government and the ruling Trinamool Congress seemed to be going all out to foil the strike and shutdown called by the Left Front and the BJP on Thursday, the communists have threatened a “war” if the administration tried to thwart the protests.

As the political parties indulged in a slugfests, industrialists complained that the strike and shutdown would not serve any purpose.

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With May 1 being an official holiday in the state on account of May Day (International Workers’ Day), Thursday’s strike and shutdown would effectively begin back to back five non-working days for government employees and others who have a five-day week.

May 4 is a gazetted holiday on account of Buddha Purnima.

The state government on Wednesday directed government employees to compulsorily report on duty on the day of strike.

“All state government offices including those provided with grants-in-aid by the state government would remain open and all the employees should report for duty on that date (April 30). No leave would be granted to any employee on that date,” the state government said in a memorandum.

“The governor has been pleased to decide that absence of employees on that date will be treated as ‘dies non’ (a day which cannot be treated as duty for any purpose) and no salary will be admissible unless such absence is covered by the grounds as mentioned in finance department memorandum…,” it read.

A day back, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee warned those participating in the strike of “strong” administrative action and said all steps would be taken to maintain normalcy.

Trinamool leader and minister Subrata Mukherjee declared that his party will actively oppose the “attempt at disrupting normal life”.

On the other hand, the protesters seemed adamant.

“If the chief minister wants war, there will be war,” state president of Left-backed CITU Shayamal Chakraborty told media persons here.

The call from the central trade unions for an all India transport strike on April 30 was transformed into a 12-hour general strike call in West Bengal with the unions as also the Left Front accusing the Trinmaool of “electoral malpractices” during the recent civic elections.

The BJP has given a separate call for a 10-hour state-wide shutdown on the same demand. The Congress has announced it would not oppose the strike.

Meanwhile, the Communist Party of India Marxist (CPI-M), which spearheads the Left Front, termed the memorandum issued by the government as unconstitutional.

“This circular is illegal and unconstitutional,” CPI-M state secretary Surya Kanta Mishra told media persons.

Mishra alleged the ruling party cadres have also been pressed into action to crush the protests.

The BJP also took a dig at the Trinamool.

“The chief minister doesn’t have enough confidence in the state administration and the police and thus her party men is taking to the streets to ensure the strike fails,” BJP state unit president Rahul Sinha said.

The proposed general strike also came under fire from industrialists.

“Bandhs, strikes, lockouts and agitations don’t achieve or add to anything and only lead to collapse of the entire system and its working – be it in private, public or government sector… We have to change with the changing time,” said Sanjay Budhia, managing director of Patton group.