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Trade union strike today: Once a ‘street fighter’, Mamata Banerjee now plans to bring law against bandhs

“There will be no bandh in Bengal” and warned of strong action against those who disrupt public life, said Mamata Banerjee on Thursday.

Mamata Banerjee, West Bengal, Kolkata, Trade union Strike in West Bengal, Trade Union Strike,  India news, Latest news Trinamool supporters participate in a rally to protest against Friday’s strike, in Kolkata on Thursday. PTI

HOURS BEFORE the bandh called by central trade unions was set to begin, a solitary taxi driver navigated through the lanes of Jadavpur — Kolkata district’s only Left Assembly segment. A loudspeaker above the taxi announced, “Apnar Mamata Banerjee ekhono aager moton e aache (Your Mamata Banerjee is still the same)”.

But the chief minister, whose abilities as a “street fighter” were so legendary that Kudankulam protesters had sought her help in their protest against the nuclear plant in Tamil Nadu in 2012, is now a changed woman and maintains that Trinamool Congress is “against bandhs”.

Not only has a Trinamool MP moved the Calcutta High Court against the strike — called to protest against the Centre’s “unilateral labour reforms and anti-worker policies” — the party has also declared that September 2 would be observed as ‘Singur Divas’, following the Supreme Court judgment on Wednesday in favour of the farmers.

Mamata on Thursday said “there will be no bandh in Bengal” and warned of strong action against those who disrupt public life. The CM said her government is also planning to introduce a new law under which those who ransack and damage property during bandhs would be made to pay compensation.

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“We will make a law on this. I had a discussion on this with the chief secretary,” she told mediapersons at the state secretariat, Nabanna. “I request all to keep your shops open and take your vehicles out. If there is any damage, the state will pay compensation…,” she said.

In a tweet, the CM said: “Bengal will not be stopped on September 2, 2016. On September 2, all educational institutions, shops, institutions, offices and factories will remain open. Vehicles will ply normally and public transport will not be hindered.”

While reiterating that Trinamool had not resorted to bandhs for the last few years — a time period coinciding with her rule — she said: “We are against bandhs. A bandh means loss of thousands of crores a day. Those who lost the elections and those who were rejected by the people have called the bandh, which will harm people,” she said. Mamata added that her party has not called a bandh in the last few years “realising its futility”.

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But Mamata and Trinamool are not the only ones looking to reinvent themselves. The Left, once vehemently opposed to computers, is now looking to find a new language of protest through social media. Armed with the hashtag – #workersstrikeback, the party is attempting to ensure that word of the strike is conveyed to each and every corner of the state.

“The party’s numbers aren’t what it used to be. We dominaned for so long on the basis of the strength of our local committees. But these have withered in the last few years. We are now attempting a different strategy,” said a Left leader.

On Tuesday, Trinamool MP and lawyer Idris Ali had filed a PIL in the Calcutta High Court on behalf of All India Minority Forum against the bandh. “The bandh called by 11 central trade unions will only end up harassing people and create disturbance,” he had claimed. While hearing the PIL on Wednesday, the court has directed the government to ensure that no force is used to prohibit people from joining the strike.

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“The verdict has given us a legal advantage. Mamata Banerjee should not use police and administration to prevent the strike. We want it to be peaceful but if she uses force, we are ready to battle it out,” said Dipak Dasgupta, state CITU general secretary.”

CITU state chief Shyamal Chakraborty on Thursday accused the Trinamool of planning to let loose violence in the garb of ‘Singur Divas’. “What was the need to organise Singur Divas when a strike has been called on the same day? The intention is clear. They want to let loose violence across the state,” he alleged.

Challenging the CM and her government to foil the strike, he said: “Their diktats, circulars are completely against law. They cannot foil a strike, it is completely illegal. The people of the state will give a befitting reply.”

The Kolkata Police, meanwhile, said it would deploy around 3,000 personnel to check any untoward incident in and around the city on Friday. “Arrangements have been made at bus terminus, tram depots, Metro stations, ferry ghats, KMC garages and fire stations for tomorrow’s bandh,” Joint CP (Headquarters) Supratim Sarkar said. As many as 357 police pickets would be set up at important crossings.

First published on: 02-09-2016 at 12:47:33 am
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