Demonstrators picketed before the gates of state government offices and educational institutions demanding hike in Dearness Allowance (DA) as the day-long strike called by some organisations of West Bengal government employees began on Friday.
Demonstrators squatted in front of the gates of state government offices like Writers Building, Bikash Bhavan, Khadya Bhavan, Swastha Bhavan, and Kolkata Municipal Corporation.
Similar scenes were witnessed in district headquarters town, block development offices and municipalities and panchayats as the number of attendees was fewer than on other days.
A protestor, belonging to the CPI(M)'s employees wing, said outside the Kolkata Municipal Corporation building here that "instead of issuing one notice after another this government should work towards hiking the DA of state employees and bring it on par with other states and Centre. Official sources, however, said work was not affected and employees attended office.
In Medinipur College, Paschim Medinipur, North Bengal University, Siliguri and Siksha Bhavan, the agitators, belonging to DSO and BJP respectively, shouted slogans at the main gate and forcibly tried to stop the students and employees from entering office at around 10 am.
This led to altercation and exchange of fisticuffs between the supporters of ruling party and the agitators. All major opposition parties - CPIM, Congress and BJP are supporting the strike called by state government employees while the TMC has accused the opposition of disrupting work culture in the name of movement while not standing by the side of the cash starved state.
The Mamata Banerjee administration already said no leave will be allowed on March 10 and the absence will be treated as a break in service. According to an order issued by the state Finance department on Thursday, all state government offices including those provided with grants-in-aid by the state such as educational institutions shall remain open on March 10 and all employees will report for duty on that day.
"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," the order said.
"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," it said.
However, no action will be taken against employees who had been on child care leave, maternity leave, medical leave and earned leave sanctioned before March 9, according to the order.
The protesting employees of 18 organisations, who have been demanding that DA be raised to the level of what their counterparts in the central government get, stuck to the decision of holding the strike. "Whatever step the government takes, we will observe the strike," said one of the leaders of the agitating organisation.
They recently held a 48-hour pen-down agitation on this issue, ignoring warnings of action, while several employees are on a hunger strike near Sahid Minar which continued till Friday. West Bengal Governor CV Ananda Bose expressed hope that all those involved in the matter would find a suitable solution.