State Employees’ Stir

Battle for DA

Atanu Chakravarty

For the first time during Trinamool Government's uninterrupted rule since 2011, the state witnessed a new watershed in state government employees’ movement. On 10 March, thousands of state government employees, teachers, casual and contract workers resorted to strike demanding immediate disbursal of their long pending Dearness Allowance (DA), filling up of more than 6 lakh posts lying vacant in different government departments, and regularising all contract and casual workers who are in all state departments. They are paid on no work no pay basis employed with paltry sums, having no statutory benefits. They are denied even government approved minimum wages.

For the first time, 55 organisations /platforms of state government employees came together and formed a new struggling platform "Sangrami Joutha Manch" (struggling joint forum) and 4 organisations of State transport employees led by AICCTU also joined this platform, which started indefinite sit-in demonstration and hunger strike in support of their demand at Shaheed Minar. The state government initially denied permission to hold such protest meeting at that place, but after a legal battle, the Manch got permission from the Calcutta HC to continue their protest meeting.

The Hon'ble Calcutta HC declared that DA is a right and not discretion of State Government, and so the State government should initiate the process of disbursing the legitimate DA due to the employees. But the high handed state government rejected the above order, approached the Apex Court,spent crores of rupees from the state exchequer in this legal battle to stall the payment. The hearing of SC is still pending. In truth DA like bonus is actually deferred wage and the government cannot deny it to its employees.

In the meantime, the agitating employees met the Governor, who felt the need of resolving this contentious issue amicably through tripartite discussion.

All the central trade unions organised solidarity campaign in support of their strike.

Mamata Banerjee conspired to drive a wedge between general people and state government employees and lashed the agitators at State Assembly saying it would be better to chop off her head because the state coffer is empty. So DA couldn't be disbursed at all. She even went to the extent that if state government concedes to the demand of paying DA then all the social welfare programmes carried by the state government would be stopped. She questioned the legitimacy of DA of the state government employees as they are the privileged section of the population. The corporate aided newspapers also peddled the logic of State government, but ultimately fighting spirit and united action reigned supreme and the strike was a grand success.

The Trinamool hoodlums, with active support of the administration, attacked the agitators in many places, but united resistance of the agitating employees came out victorious.

It should be noted that the largest and biggest organisation among the state government employees is the left-led Co-ordination Committee. The Joint Platform of Co-ordination Committee also supported this strike call. Both the platforms, viz, Sangrami Joutha Manch and Joint Platform successfully implemented this strike call which proves that newer form of organisation has emerged, reflecting the imagination and aspirations of the state government employees and newer form of movement such as digital strike ( withdrawing from all the official govt Whatsapp group) deserves attention. The state government has started issuing show cause notices to the employees for participating in the strike.

But the agitating employees are planning for their next phase of movement both legal and street demonstration. On 30th March, this platform has planned to organise a massive rally, one from Sealdah, and the other from Howrah and will culminate at Shaheed Minar where a mass meeting will be organised.

On 10 April, mass dharna will be organised at Jantar Mantar Delhi, from that Dharna deputation will go to the offices of President, Finance Minister and Education Minister to submit memorandums.
They have also planned to go for continuous strike if their demands are not met.          


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Vol 55, No. 41, April 9 - 15, 2023