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Monday, August 29, 2011

Civic water strike from Tuesday - Conservancy service shutdown to hit Darjeeling residents more

VIVEK CHHETRI, TT, Darjeeling, Aug. 28: The employees’ union in the Darjeeling municipality has decided to indefinitely close down the water supply from Tuesday and will not allow the conservancy department to work for four days over the payment of property tax at the bank.
The youth wing of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, whose writ runs in the hills, said it would support the strike.

The strike in the conservancy department is expected to have a more immediate effect and will hit the town hard more than the dry taps. It will mean that conservancy workers will not collect garbage from the town for disposal.
The impact of the indefinite strike by the water-works department will, however, begin to show only after three-four days. This is largely because the municipality supplies water every 3-4 days and the residents of Darjeeling have provisions to store water for that period of time.
The employees are demanding that the municipality revert to the old system of paying property tax at the municipality office instead of the bank as decided by the civic body.
The Darjeeling Municipality Employees’ Union had started a pen down strike from August 4, but with no solution in sight the staff have decided to intensify their agitation. “Since our demand has not yet been met, we have decided to close down the water-works department for an indefinite period from Tuesday. The conservancy department would also go in for a four-day strike from August 30,” said Alan Chhetri, president of the union.
The Gorkha Janmukti Yuva Morcha (town committee) has said it would extend support to the agitators.
Tilak Chhetri, the president of the Yuva Morcha (in town), said: “We support the demand of the employees and we will also regularly gherao the office of the sub-divisional officer for fulfilment of the demand.” The sub-divisional officer is the administrator of the municipality.
District magistrate Mohan Gandhi said he was trying his best to end the impasse.
“I have already informed the principal secretary of the municipal affairs department about the situation and I am waiting for a reply. I am also trying to negotiate with the unions. They are not being flexible. The union should give some space for negotiations,” said Gandhi.
Darjeeling SDO Tamal Das had earlier said instead of making it mandatory for people to pay their property tax at the bank — a move opposed by the union — residents would have the option of paying at the municipality itself.
The union, however, rejected the SDO’s proposals and said property taxes should be paid only at the municipality office like it used to be done earlier.
The agitators alleged that the decision to shift the payment of property tax to the bank was taken without consulting the employees.
“Every time a new SDO takes charge of the municipality, they come up with their own rules. Paying taxes at the bank will inconvenience the general public as they have to scuttle between the bank and the office if there is a mismatch in the records,” said Chhetri. “Sixteen employees responsible for collecting the taxes are now without work in the municipality.”

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