KOLKATA: WEST Bengal came to a halt on February 20th. It was the rejoinder by the people of this state on the most debated and opposed general strike of recent times. Dictatorial ultimatums of the state government found no shore on the day except popular denunciation. Every sounds and even silence of the people of the people proclaimed popular rejection of the anti-people, anti-labour agenda of the UPA-II government as they along with millions of others across the country participated in the first day of the Two-Day Nationwide General Strike on February 20th and 21st .
The West Bengal state committee of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), extending its full support to the two-day long nationwide strike call of 11 central trade unions, had appealed to the people of this state to observe all out strike. Various peasant organizations have also supported the strike which is aimed at betterment of lives of the working people. By not overlooking the historic importance of International Mother Language Day and showing confidence to the popular sentiments, the CPI(M) had asked the trade unions to allow partial discharge on the second day of strike in this state. And the trade unions responded positively to that appeal. Along with the popular rejection to the ruling strata’s intimidation, this strike marked a vivid instance of successful cooperation and understanding of the Party with the trade unions.
CONSTANT INTIMIDATION AND ATTACKS
West Bengal witnessed a massive participation of people in the strike refuting incessant intimidation from the TMC-led government. The government had taken multiple measures to attack the strike in various ways:
i. Police used opposing the strike: The government unprecedentedly used its police administration to propagate against strike. The police was engaged in mike campaign in different localities for the last two days.
ii. Ministers’ threats: The chief minister Mamata Banerjee and her council of special two-three ministers applied every measure to intimidate people just to oppose the strike.
iii. Punitive Order: The West Bengal government issued a brutal order from the finance department where the state government employees were threatened to join the office on both days to avoid punitive measures like service break and salary-cut. The order even violates the Right to Strike.
iv. Direct attacks: A series of attacks had been perpetrated in different localities for the last two weeks particularly in areas where people and left workers were campaigning for the strike.
But West Bengal, upholding its tradition of protest against all tyrannical measures against the common people, has made the strike a great success. From North to extreme South Bengal, the scenario of the state remained ‘stand still’ when the state private transport, factories, agricultural fields, shops across localities, shopping centres were completely disrupted due to not having enough commuters and workers.
The private transport workers rendered full support to the strike. Out of more than 5000 mini buses, just less than even 120 were plying on the streets; out of total 37,000 private buses, less than 1500 appeared on roads; most Tea Estates of North Bengal remained closed.
Industrial regions of the state witnessed a complete seize of work. Barrakpore Industrial belt was no less than a no man’s land where most of the labour and working people observed all out strike. Taratalla Industrial region observed strike in decisive manner with most of the industries and factories shut down. Coal mine areas and Durgapore Industrial region observed the first day of strike withstanding numerous threats and attacks from the authorities and the ruling party. Kalyani Industrial region was partially in action as the government and authority nexus had the workers forcefully locked in the factories overnight. Hoogly and Haldia Industrial belt observed strike in best possible way as they are in constant threat from ruling party goons and job insecurity.
GOVT-SPONSORED EVENTS OF ATTACKS
(i) Hazra, Minister Instigates: The state transport minister Madan Mitra overtly instigated the police to start a rampant lathicharge on February 20 on the innocent strike campaigners at Hajra Crossing. The police did not even spare senior citizens and women while arresting them.
(ii) Nimta, Left workers attacked and injured: A CPI(M) local committee secretary Ashok Sarkar was attacked and injured by Trinamool hooligans at Nimta; a primary school teacher was beaten brutally by the Trinamool hooligans in Halishshar, North 24 Parganas.
(iii) Asansol, Henious attempt to oppose the strike: Numerous events of attacks on the strike observers took place throughout Asansol along with two massive attacks by the ruling party goons, one at the Asansol Bazar and another at the BNR more. The hooliganism of the ruling party led to complete shutdown of all facilities in Asansol town.
(iv) West Midnapore, CPI(M) office vandalised: TMC workers unleashed massive attack at Narayangar and vandalised the CPI(M) local committee office situated there. Another event of attacking the strike observers and area Party office of CPI(M) occurred at Dantan.
TRADE UNIONS CONGRATULATE PEOPLE
At the end of the first day strike, the trade unions in a joint statement congratulated the working class in organised and unorganised sectors for making the strike successful, inspite of the threats given by the state chief minister. They condemned the death of AITUC leader Narendra Singh in Ambala, who was murdered by being crushed under the wheels. The organisers have called for all out rallies in the state in protest.
While confronting the various statements made to foil the two day general strike call, CITU West Bengal state president Shyamal Chakrabarty said at a press conference that despite the state government holding repeated talks to ply transport on the days of the strike, the working class rebuffed her attempts. Responding to her call to Election Commission to ban political parties that called for strike, Chakraborthy advised her to at least now read the Constitution and see what the Article on fundamental rights states.
Shyamal Chakrabarty has also spoken of dragging to the court those who have gone beyond their constitutional powers and have issued circulars to the emloyees compelling them to join duties to make the strike unsuccessful against their wish.
February 24, 2013