Chief minister Mamata Banerjee took the bandh bull by its horns, announcing that the state government would oppose Thursday’s strike tooth and nail called by the Left Front and NDA to protest against FDI in retail. A senior government official said that the state government might deduct a day’s salary if any employee did not attend office.
On the February 28 strike called by 11 trade unions, the state government decided to deduct one day’s salary.
“Bandhs do not bring any solutions. They just create ‘political pollution’. We are against such bandhs and our government would oppose it. We will not allow anyone to forcefully impose a bandh in West Bengal,” Banerjee said while speaking to reporters at the state secretariat on Wednesday.
While the Left Front has called a 12-hour general strike in West Bengal on September 20, the BJP-led NDA too has called a 24-hour Bharat bandh the same day. Banerjee has requested both the parties to withdraw the strikes citing economic losses.
Later in the day chief secretary Samar Ghosh issued a circular making it mandatory for government employees to attend office on Thursday and said that no leave would be granted that day.
Banerjee lashed out at the Left Front claiming: “They had not only imposed a hefty debt of more than R2 lakh crore on us while leaving but are now frequently calling bandhs and blockades so that the state suffers more economic losses.”
The chief minister claimed that each time a bandh is observed the state’s net domestic product incurs a loss of nearly R2,000 crore and nearly 75% of the production is lost.
Leader of the opposition in the state legislative assembly and CPI(M) MLA Surya Kanta Mishra said: “Mamata’s decision to pull out of the UPA to protest against FDI in retail is in fact an indirect support to our bandh. Why is she opposing us? Are we to forget how many bandhs and strikes Mamata had called while in the opposition?”
The bandh called by the Left Front and NDA is likely to lose its edge as the bus and minibus owners’ associations have decided to withdraw their ‘unofficial strikes’ temporarily.
Even the Forum of Traders’ Organisations — a platform of all the traders’ organisations in the state — have also decided to stay away from the bandh. The result: all shops would remain open.
More than 35,000 taxis run by the two main taxi associations, Bengal Taxi Association and Calcutta Taxi Association, will however remain off the roads from September 20 for 72 hours.
“With bus owners and traders withdrawing the strike the government would be able to combat the strike called by the Left Front and NDA is a much effective way,” said a senior leader of the Trinamool.