Thousands Denied Salaries
ALONG with the peasants, now it is the turn of transport workers to face the consequences of the misguided policies of the TMC-led government of West Bengal. Vikram Singh, an employee of Calcutta Tramways Company, a state run transport corporation, committed suicide as he was denied about four months of salary. Singh, along with thousands of employees of four state run transport companies was not receiving his due salary as the TMC led government has bluntly blocked the ‘subsidy’ for their wages. The workers are facing tremendous hardship and many of them were forced to take loans to run their families.
The immediate provocation for Vikram Singh’s desperate bid to end his life might have come from a public statement by the newly promoted transport minister Madan Mitra. Mitra told media on January 24 that the state government would stop all support for the transport corporations and quipped, “From where the money will come, from USA?” This, along with utterly disgraceful comments about the workers, created a wave of frustration and anger among the workers throughout the state. Young Vikram Singh, already neck deep in loans and his wife being pregnant, decided to end his life hours after that nasty comment from the minister, which was televised. He was a resident of Rishra in Hooghly and was posted in Ghasbagan depot of Howrah. His father was a mason.
Just after assuming office, the TMC led government targeted to drastically reduce the support for four state run transport companies. The first victims were the pensioners who were denied their dues for months. Then the wages of the workers were stopped. With hue and cry all over, the state government released some money and then again halted the process. Meanwhile, the casual workers were specially targeted and their salary was stopped for four months. In Ghasbagan depot of CTC , where Vikram Singh worked, all 85 employees of engineering department and 258 workers of traffic section were denied salaries for the last four months. The state government has hinted quite clearly that they were not going to continue with subsidies. The so called ‘loss’ and ‘non viability’ theories, frequently floated by the votaries of the neo liberal policies, were loudly aired. According to the CITU state president Shyamal Chakraborty , this was nothing but a ploy to privatise transport sector in the state.
The suicide of a transport worker evoked strong condemnation from all quarters. CPI(M) state secretary Biman Basu has categorically said that the policies of the TMC led government was the root cause of this tragic loss of life. Suryakanta Misra, leader of opposition, said, the peasants were committing suicide, the tea garden workers were starving to death and now the workers of the state run corporations have followed suit. The TMC led government is pursuing anti-people policies. Even in developed countries, transport sector is subsidised. The INTUC has also condemned the inhuman comments of the minister.
The transport workers have decided to protest the move of the state government jointly.
People’s Democracy, January 29, 2012