Bengal tops the country in lockouts, Union minister of state for labour and employment Bandaru Dattatreya said on Saturday, perhaps paving the way for a war of words on a new front between the BJP and the Trinamool Congress.
The minister said he has invited state labour minister Malay Ghatak to Delhi to discuss this issue among others.
“I have gone through the reports on lockouts that show that the highest number of them are in Bengal,” Dattatreya said. He was discussing the steps taken by the Centre to address labour issues in the country. He also singled out the condition in the tea industry in North Bengal and Assam and described it as “pathetic.”
Ghatak was, however, not available for comments. Dattatreya’s comments are likely to stir the political pot that is already boiling with the BJP and the Trinamool being daggers drawn on issues such as the Saradha scam, Burdwan blast and infiltration.
The minister did not specify why he thinks Bengal accounts for most of the lockouts. “I cannot tell you the specific reasons behind this. I am not talking about the present situation but in its totality,” he clarified. “Lockouts are going to be a big problem. Workers’ security is my prime job... their employment and social security has to be taken care of,” the Union minister added.
“A conducive atmosphere should be created particularly in Bengal. More jobs have to be created and unless the relation between employers and employees are harmonious, no development process can speed up,” he said. Over the past few months the industrial relations scenario in Bengal was marked by at least two incidents of management members being lynched by workers.
On June 15, the CEO of North Brook Jute Mill (in Hooghly district) was killed by workers in the mill compound. On November 22, Rajesh Jhunjhunwala, the owner of Sonali Tea Garden was stabbed and battered to death by angry workers inside the garden.
“The Centre is keen to help states, particularly in tea plantations because the situation there is bad. In some places workers are on strike... I spoke to the Ministry of Commerce and we will formulate and help the tea plantation workers,” the minister said.