“Whatever suits them to maintain dictatorship, they are doing,” Mamata Banerjee said.


West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday condemned the decision to send some Air India workers on leave for five years without pay. “I am shocked,” the West Bengal chief minister said and accused the Centre and the BJP of taking advantage of the pandemic situation to change laws without consultation. “Whatever suits them to maintain dictatorship, they are doing,” she said.

Reviving her protest against 100 per cent FDI in Coal India – India’s coal PSU headquarters are in Kolkata – Ms Banerjee said, “Aren’t there labour laws? Do you want to bulldoze all employees? No pay for five years in this situation? Farmers, migrants, government employees they all are asking for food and money. Cash, because they have none.  Economists are saying give cash to people. But you are snatching their service? You should be ashamed.” 

Referring to the five year term of unpaid leave, Ms Banerjee voiced her suspicion that it had something to do with general elections five years from now. “Five years they will go on leave? What about elections in five years. I appeal to states…trade unions…even the BJP one….I appeal, stay together, fight together. Is this the work of a democratic government? Everything is lost.” 

In a move meant to reduce its number of employees, the board of Air India has allowed the airline’s Chairman and Managing Director (CMD) to recommend that a non-performing staff member be compulsorily sent on leave without pay for a period of up to five years. The move comes at a time when the government is attempting to sell off the airline, a process which has been delayed because of the outbreak of coronavirus.

The plight of state-run BSNL also came up. Ms Banerjee said the people were scared in Covid times, worrying about where to get tested and where to get admitted for treatment and were not focussing on the government’s “arbitrary actions”.


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