CITU siege hits Govt. machinery

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM JAN. 28. In a massive display of working-class resistance, thousands of CITU workers and their families laid siege to the State Secretariat and district collectorates today, asking the UDF Government to roll back policies that resulted in loss of wages and employment, particularly in plantation and traditional industrial sectors. Reflecting the mood outside, the Opposition LDF members staged a walk-out in the Assembly.

Hundreds of workers and their family members created a human wall around the State Secretariat early in the morning in an emphatic articulation of workers' ire against the Antony Government's liberalisation policies.

The siege was formally inaugurated later by the Leader of the Opposition, V. S. Achuthanandan, who arrived before the Secretariat after leading the Opposition LDF members out of the Assembly to protest against the Government's refusal to allow a discussion on the issues that the CITU sought to highlight through its agitation.

The siege was inaugurated in Kollam by the CITU national president, E. Balanandan, in Kochi by the CITU general secretary, M. K. Pandhe, in Kozhikode by the CPI (M) State secretary, Pinarayi Vijayan, in Thrissur by the former Chief Minister, E. K. Nayanar, in Kannur by the CITU State president, K. N. Ravindranath, in Alappuzha by the CITU State secretary, P. K. Gurudasan, and in Palakkad by the LDF convener, Paloli Mohammed Kutty.

The siege passed off peacefully both here and in the districts. At all the places, the police was out in full battle gear, but they did not have to exert themselves much as the CITU leadership and workers seemed keen to ensure that the assurance given to the Kerala High Court to maintain peace, was honoured to the last letter.

The only instance of alleged intimidation of Government employees by the CITU workers was reported from Kottayam where the police took 140 persons into custody.

The siege continued till evening rendering the seats of administration both in the capital and in the districts dysfunctional for the entire day. Unlike in the past, there was not much dislocation in vehicular traffic on account of the siege.

In the Assembly, the Opposition tried in vain to force adjournment of the proceedings to facilitate a discussion on the issue. However, the Speaker, Vakkom Purushothaman, turned down the Opposition demand. Opposing the adjournment motion, sought to be moved by the CPI(M) deputy leader, Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, the Chief Minister, A. K. Antony, admitted that there were problems in both the sectors and workers were having a tough time.

He, however, contended that the agitations of the kind being staged by the CITU would not help solve the problems.

Mr. Antony said the Government's attempt to nurse the State's finances to health had begun to bear fruit and the situation in the farm sector had begun to look up with prices of commodities such as rubber and cardamom showing an uptrend.

The crisis in industries such as coir, cashew, handloom and beedi still remained intractable. The Government had succeeded in getting factories of CAPEX reopened and efforts were on to save the other industries, he said.

In a statement, issued late this evening, Mr. Gurudasan claimed that five lakh workers and their family members had taken part in the siege.

He termed the `success' of the stir a warning against the `arrogance' of the Chief Minister and the Director General of Police.

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