A DAY ahead of the nationwide 24-hour bandh called by 10 central trade unions, supported by 17 Left parties, state secretariat Nabanna was abuzz with activity even after the official working hours, as around 400 employees stayed back to attend office on Wednesday.
In a first, the government had issued a circular directing the state PWD to make arrangements for staff members to stay Tuesday night. Canteen authorities have also been asked to prepare food for these employees.
Those who stayed back on Tuesday were mostly from the suburbs and apprehended that a rail blockade will stop them from attending office. Government employees were also found spending the night at Writers’ Buildings, Bikash Bhavan and Todi Bhavan.
Sources said overall, around 1,000 employees have decided to stay back.
The state government had on Monday made it mandatory for all its employees to be present in office on Wednesday. On Tuesday, it revised it’s earlier circular to ensure presence of its employees on bandh day.
The revised circular said: “An employee who absents himself on bandh 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.” This will commence from a date before September 2 and continue thereafter, except on grounds as mentioned in an earlier circular, it added. Employees said this is the first time such a diktat has been issued, in which the employee will be marked absent for the entire leave period and not just one day.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who met several trade union representatives on Tuesday, urged them to keep their businesses open and assured that the state will compensate if there was any damage to property. “The CM assured us that she will remain beside the traders in case we face any problems in keeping our shops open. She also assured us police protection and compensation in case of any damage,” said Ravindra Nath Koley, member of the task force on agricultural products price. He added that Mamata told them that she was trying to introduce insurance protection for such situations.
Leader of Opposition and senior CPM leader Surya Kanta Mishra, however, asked employees to “tear away circulars”. “She (Mamata) has done this before, but the circulars were baseless. They will fall flat in the court of law… We ask state government employees to tear those circulars and participate in the strike,” Mishra told mediapersons.
He added: “On August 27, police had lathicharged Left workers during their march to Nabanna but the CM was not satisfied. She had told senior police officers that there were still some policemen who were Left-affiliated.”
On Mamata assuring that the state will compensate if there was any damage to property, he said: “Trinamool workers cause the damage. They issue a warning the day before and indulge in vandalism the day after… The TMC themselves attack shops, threaten shop-owners and blame it on us… This has been the trend.”
“We are protesting against the Centre reducing budget allocations for sectors like mother and child welfare, health and nutrition. Farmers are suffering and being forced to commit suicide. There is hardly any security for women,” he claimed. Asked whether Left Front-led trade unions and the Left parties would try to enforce the strike, Mishra said: “We neither believe in enforcing the strike forcibly nor believe in using force to break strikes.”
Mishra and Left Front Chairman Biman Bose on Tuesday held rallies in various parts of Kolkata to make the strike a success.