Wednesday’s countrywide general strike called by trade unions has turned into a prestige battle in West Bengal with the Mamata Banerjee government vowing to foil any disruption and the opposition Left Front threatening to return fire with fire to make the shutdown successful.
If the Trinamool Congress government issued a circular mandating government employees to report on duty and treating any absence as unpaid leave, the Communist Party of India-Marxist led Left Front dubbed the circular illegal and called for defying it.
While earlier such circulars provided that the absence only on the day of the strike shall be treated as “dies non”, Tuesday’s circular states that in case a leave on the strike day is tagged along with other days, the entire period will be treated as absence.
“An employee who absents himself on the strike day by tagging leave on that day with other days will also be treated as absent and the entire period of absence will be treated as ‘dies non’ and no salary will be admissible,” said the circular issued by state finance secretary H.K. Dwiwedi.
Besides the circular, arrangements have also been made for night stay of government employees at their offices including the state secretariat.
Terming the circular illegal, Leader of Opposition and CPI-M state secretary Surjya Kanta Mishra called upon employees to disregard it.
“The government cannot issue such a circular, it is illegal and unconstitutional. No other government has ever issued such a circular. I would urge you to tear it away,” Mishra said.
“She (Banerjee) has issued similar dies non circulars earlier but could never implement them. She won’t be able to implement it this time as well. We will collectively fight against this,” he asserted.
Front leaders led by chairman Biman Bose took out a procession in the city in the build up to the strike called by trade unions and their affiliated labour organisations to press for increasing minimum wage to Rs.15,000, representation to unions in labour reform process and providing wages to contractual workers on par with regular workers.
The Trinamool leaders too have asserted they will hit the streets to foil the strike while the state government has assured traders of providing compensation along with police protection in case they suffer any damages during the shutdown.
State transport secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay assured buses and trams will operate normally while the railways too have said trains services including the Metro rail will operate as usual.
Continuing its aggressive stand, the CPI-M backed Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) asserted it will counter aggression with aggression.
“If any of our activists, workers are attacked, it will have dangerous consequences,” said CITU state president Shyamal Chakraborty.
Both the CITU and the Left Front have warned the Banerjee government that it will be akin to “playing with fire” if the force was used to crack down on the shutdown.