Eager to hold aloft the flag of improved work culture in Bengal, the Mamata Banerjee government has decided to issue conditional permits for buses, taxis and auto rickshaws only after owners submit an undertaking that they would not participate in strikes and bandhs.
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee has been working overtime to send a signal that the state has turned over a new leaf in work culture under her regime.
During the strikes of February 28 and September 20, she ensured government employees attend work under the threat of deducting a day’s salary.
Transport minister Madan Mitra announced the new plan on Wednesday soon after he was elevated to a cabinet rank (from MoS rank). “Enough is enough. We are going to stop the bus, taxi and auto associations from participating in strikes. Henceforth, we are going to issue conditional permits where the owners have to sign an undertaking that their permits would be cancelled if they participate in strikes,” said Mitra soon after he taking oath as a cabinet minister at Raj Bhavan.
Leaders of opposition parties reacted sharply to Mitra’s announcement. How could the government issue conditional permits that insist on surrendering fundamental rights, they wondered. Political leaders and transport associations termed the minister’s announcement as an “impossible phenomenon”.
“Even judges in courts take part in strikes. Then why wouldn’t bus, cab and auto rickshaw owners enjoy the right? This decision will not be supported by any court,” said veteran CITU leader Kali Ghosh.
“Under the Essential Supply Maintenance Act 1981 the government can declare a strike illegal. But they cannot restrain anyone from participating in the strike until and unless the strike is declared illegal. Such a step is illegal,” said Arunava Ghosh veteran Congress leader and a prominent lawyer.
Ghosh explained that even implementation of the process will be a difficult one. There may be cases, when a bus breaks down on the day of a strike.
It will even be difficult for the government to monitor all the buses, autos and taxis.
Most important, if all the buses, cabs and taxis participate in the strike the government cannot cancel all the permits. It will further paralyse public transportation,” added Ghosh.
The trade union wing of CITU has decided to lodge a protest against the decision of the government. CITU leaders stated that the decision would breach the constitutional rights that allow a citizen to participate in strike as part of a protest.
The transport associations in the state have decided to adopt a “go slow” attitude after Mitra’s announcement. They said soon they would organise a joint meeting to discuss their next course of actions. “We are going to protest the steps jointly. We may also move court together,” said Bengal Taxi Association secretary Bimal Guha.