Bengal to introduce law to fine strikers damaging public property: Mamata

Kolkata, Sep 1 (IANS) The West Bengal government is planning to come up with a legislation to impose fine on those who damage public property during strikes and shutdowns, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said here on Thursday.

Speaking to mediapersons on the eve of the general strike called by the central trade unions, the Chief Minister exuded confidence that there would be no disruption of public life.

“I appeal to the people to keep Bengal on the move tomorrow (Friday). The politics of bandh (shutdown) should not be there. We have already suffered enough losses on account of such disruption.”

“If there is any damage to property or vehicles, our government will give compensation,” she said.

The Chief Minister said she held parleys with Home Secretary Moloy De during the day on combating the strike.

“We will bring in a new law to make perpetrators of violence pay compensation in case of damage to any property,” she said.

The Chief Minister said she had herself till a few years ago called shutdowns from time to time. “But I found it was fruitless to sponsor such disruptions. So I have stopped calling shutdowns and strikes. Why should I force people to close shops and stall traffic?”

Meanwhile, elaborate security arrangements have been made to prevent any untoward incident on Friday.

The police have set up 357 pickets at important city crossings, bus and tram depots, metro railway stations, fire stations, markets, government offices and business establishments.

Around 3,000 police personnel would be deployed on the streets, where 25 High Radio Flying Squads, special division mobile teams will work under the supervision of senior officers.

However, the striking trade unions seemed adamant.

Citing a Calcutta High Court order stating force cannot be used either to break or to enforce a strike, the Centre of Indian Trade Unions said the judicial verdict has put them at an “advantage”.

“The Calcutta High Court verdict has provided us a legal advantage as it prohibits the use of force to break a strike,” CITU state General Secretary Dipak Dasgupta told mediapersons.

Dasgupta also warned Banerjee not to use “the police and administration undemocratically” to break the strike.

He said in case the Trinamool government tries to thwart the strike with a heavy hand, the workers will not back out from a confrontation.

“If Mamata Banerjee wants a battle, then we are game. We want a peaceful strike, but we will put up a stiff resistance if the state government uses force,” he said.

Countering Banerjee’s announcement that the state government will provide compensation if any vehicle suffers damage during the strike, CITU state President Shyamal Chakraborty charged the Trinamool of planning to use “goons” to damage vehicles and then put the blame on trade union workers.

Ten central trade unions have called the strike to oppose the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government’s “anti-labour” policies, price rise and growing unemployment and demand better wage.

The workers are also opposed to disinvestment in the public sector and FDI in Railways, Defence and Insurance sectors.

Also on their charter of demands is revocation of ceilings on payment of bonus and provident fund and increase in the quantum of gratuity.

–IANS

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