The Trinamool Congress (TMC) party, which has been vocal about the ongoing anti-farm law agitation against the Union government, had drawn the ire of contractual workers associated with Self Employed Labor Organisations. The contractual labourers have been demanding that they be made permanent employees of the government and get a fixed salary instead of commission, that has dried up during the pandemic.
On Monday, during a meeting with the State government, angry workers tore down TMC banners and destroyed flex boards, featuring Mamata Banerjee, at the Netaji Indoor Stadium. In a video shared by ABP News, the contractual labourers could be seen taking out their anger against the current political dispensation. The incident took place in the presence of State Urban Minister Firhad Hakim, Power Minister Sobhan Deb Chattopadhyay and Labour Minister Moly Ghatak.
As per reports, the contractual workers were hoping that the government would give them assurance about their long-standing salary demand or mention about the salary structure. However, when none of the TMC Minister spoke about it, the angry protestors ripped apart banners and flex boards.
“You have to give our monthly wage of ₹13,500,” said one protestor. Another worker asked, “We are supposed to get our salary today.” Why did it not happen?” When the police successfully escorted the TMC Ministers out of the stadium, the workers then blocked the Shahid Khudiram Bose Road.
Workers demand fixed minimum wage from the West Bengal government
According to the contractual labourers, the Self Employed Labor Organisation was formed to raise money every month in various social security schemes from 6500 unorganised workers in West Bengal during the Left regime. They said that they would receive commissions for withdrawing money for the unorganised workers. However, due to the pandemic, the withdrawal process had come to a halt since March-April of this year, thereby wiping out their commission. As such, they demanded a fixed minimum wage structure from the government, the assurance of which was not received during the meeting.
When contacted, Ghatak told PTI that the state government had received a deputation from the contractual labourers, which included the demand to make them permanent workers.
“We had nothing to announce today. We know that these labourers are not getting their commission for the last six months. We are looking into their demands but such protest was totally uncalled for,” Ghatak said.
In his defence, Firhad Hakim claimed, “Demands can’t be fulfilled like this. If we inform CM about it she will definitely do something.” However, power Minister Sovondeb Chattopadhyay conceded, “They have a legitimate demand and I hope the matter will be settled amicably.” While Hakim said that demands cannot be met this way, the contractual labourers said that they had agreed to attend this meeting only after an assurance was given that their demands would be met.
Mamata Banerjee writes to govt to disburse money under PM-Kisan scheme to her
In her letter issued on December 21, Mamata Banerjee had alleged that the West Bengal government still awaits the disbursement of funds to the state government for the onward transfer of the payments to the farmers of the state. Interestingly, the West Bengal CM has also enclosed a copy of a letter dated 9 September 2020 to allege that her government had not received the funds from the central government even after demanding for the same earlier in September.
Centre rejects Banerjee’s demand for routing the funds allocated under the scheme through the state government
In September 2020, Mamata Banerjee had written a letter to the Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, asking him to disburse the amount meant for farmers under the PM Kisan Samman Nidhi scheme to the West Bengal government. The Centre had then rejected Mamata Banerjee’s demand of routing the money to the state government, categorically stating that the scheme is based on direct benefit transfer to farmers’ account and “routing money through the state government would be against the spirit of the scheme”.
West Bengal remains the only state which has not implemented this scheme that provides an annual support amount of Rs 6,000 to farmers in three equal instalments.