Protests organised by the Opposition parties in West Bengal and a strike called by a section of employees of the State government on Friday kept police and the administration on their toes.
While the government employees staged a demonstration, demanding DA (dearness allowance) parity with the Union government staff, the supporters of the Students Federation of India (SFI) held protests over the alleged recruitment scam. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) supporters laid siege at the headquarters of the State Health Department over the deaths due to adenovirus infection.
The members of SFI, who held gathered at Sealdah and Howrah railway stations, and marched towards the West Bengal Assembly. The police had a tough time when the SFI supporters reached the Assembly gates and tried to scale it. The Assembly was in session and the police personnel were taken off guard when they reached and started shouting slogans. The police had denied permission to the SFI to take out the rally. Communist Party of India (Marxist) State Secretary Md. Salim said that students do not need permission to hold rallies against corruption.
The situation had turned volatile near Swastha Bhawan, the headquarters of the State Health Department in the Salt Lake area, when the BJP supporters tried to march towards the office. Amid the scuffle between the BJP supporters and the police, BJP’s Mahila Morcha chief Tanuja Chakraborty and party MLA Agnimitra Mitra alleged that they were pushed by the police and sustained injuries.
Protesting BJP supporters were detained and taken away from the venue in ambulances brought by the police. State BJP president Sukanta Majumdar said that while the police allowed the SFI supporters to march till the Assembly gates, they used force against the BJP members.
On the other hand, a section of government employees observed a strike demanding a parity of Dearness Allowance ( DA) with Union government employees. The strike was supported by the political parties in the Opposition, including the Left parties, Congress and the BJP.
The protesting employees held demonstrations outside the West Bengal government offices such as Writer’s Building, Bikash Bhavan, Khadya Bhavan, Swastha Bhavan, and the Kolkata Municipal Corporation. Despite warnings issued by the government, the attendance in the government offices was thin. The functioning of government offices was severely impacted by the strike.
According to an order issued by the State Finance Department, no casual leave or any other kind of leave for absence either in the first half of the day or in the second half or for the whole day shall be granted to any employee on March 10.
“Absence of employees on that day will be treated as dies-non (break in service) and no salary will be admissible unless such absence is covered by hospitalisation of the employees or if there is bereavement in the family, severe illness and absence continuing prior to March 9,” the order issued on Thursday said.
Later in the day, the West Bengal government said that there was no impact on the normal functioning of offices of the State government. “Action will be initiated against employees who have willfully absented themselves today from work,” said the government in a press release.
In the districts there were several instances where supporters of Trinamool Congress tried to enforce that government offices and educational institutions should remain open resulting in clashes and scuffle with protesting employees.
Trinamool Congress general secretary Abhishek Banerjee while participating in a government event said that State government employees have a right to protest but people of the State have rejected the culture of bandh and strikes.
In another development, there was an exchange of words between Leader of the Opposition (LoP) Suvendu Adhikari and State’s Irrigation Minister Partha Bhowmick on the floor of the Assembly.
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