West Bengal education minister Bratya Basu on Sunday went against the official line of the state government by saying the decision whether to join the strike (on February 28) or not rested with the teaching community.
This is in contrast to the step taken by chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who has ordered the checking of the attendance register and taking steps against state government employees who did not turn up for work on February 28, the day of the trade union strike in the country.
"I will not be a detective and ask for the list of teachers who did not turn up on the day of the strike. I will discuss the matter in my department and decide on the next step," Basu said.
Basu was speaking to the media on the sidelines of a programme. "Everyone has the right to join or to stay away from strike."
This comment comes in the context of the West Bengal government's plans to ban trade union rights of the teaching and non-teaching staff in colleges and universities of the state.
The logic that drives the decision is that teachers and the non-teaching staff do not qualify to be factory workers.
This translates into cancelling the right to go on strike without notice, rescinding pen-down, etc. The move follows a similar, controversial move taken for state government employees, including the police.
The chief minister had earlier said: "We also called bandhs when we were in the opposition in the past, but later realised their futility."
Labour minister Purnendu Bose is expected to hold a meeting with officers shortly to finalise ways of curbing trade union rights.
"Universities are not factories. Teachers and the non-teaching staff are not factory workers. I will soon sit with labour department officers to find ways to stop trade unionism in campuses," Bose told HT.