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TMC driving away industries from Bengal

90 industrial units have closed down in the last three years.

SUSENJIT GUHA  Kolkata | 20th Jul 2014

Senior management officials at Asansol's Jamuria-based Shyam Sel and Power Ltd were allegedly threatened with murder or live burial, if they did not pay a percentage on the value of raw materials unloaded daily and transported to their factory. A local Trinamool Congress leader, Alok Das allegedly made these threats. This is the latest incident of extortion related threats to industrial units in West Bengal.

Das has been accused of issuing these threats to Shyam Sel's top executives at a meeting with TMC trade union leaders in the presence of Prabhat Chatterjee, president of Burdwan's Indian National Trinamool Trade Union Congress (INTTUC) unit. The party has issued a show cause notice to Das because of this. For the last two months, Das insisted that the daily unloading of 6,000 to 8,000 tons iron ore by Shyam Sel should be done manually. Das also allegedly demanded money for the unloaded tonnage, a stake in the transportation of the ore to the factory. He allegedly also threatened to forcibly occupy 75 bighas of land acquired by the company for the expansion of their existing plant.

State Labour Minister and a Legislator from Asansol, Moloy Ghatak, cleared Das' name saying that the people from neighbouring villages protested because they wanted jobs. Das had shared the stage with state Industry Minister Partha Chattopadyay and ITTUC president Dola Sen. Sen, who lost to BJP's Babul Supriyo in the Lok Sabha elections, told TMC supporters to follow Das.

Unable to contain the repeated onslaught and forcible stoppage of the unloading of ore by local TMC leaders, Shyam Sel wrote to Mamata Banerjee and the district administration. Speaking to this newspaper, Shyam Sel's vice president, Ratan Kumar Chakraborty, said, "TMC leader Das has vested financial interest in the threats we faced for two months. We are looking for development of the state, but we might have to close down the plant. This is the first time we are facing this type of a situation and if this goes on, we shall have to cease expansion operations." Chakraborty reiterated that due to these impediments, the plant was running at 20% capacity. Babul Supriyo, under whose Asansol Lok Sabha constituency Jamuria comes, said that the Chief Minister should put an end to TMC's threats to industry as it created a bad impression of the state.

Mamata Banerjee had warned Jindal Steel Works (JSW) a few days ago that the 4,000 acres of land acquired by them for a steel plant worth Rs 35,000 cr in West Midnapore's Salboni would be taken away by the state government if the company did not complete the project. The company was ordered to pay Rs 5,000 per month to each family that lost the land.

According to S.K. Bajoria of the Bajoria Group, 90 industrial units have closed down in the last three years, including 26 jute mills and 28 tea gardens, leading to job losses for 133,000 workers,.

Shalimar Paints suspended work in its Bengal unit recently. Jessop, known for constructing the Howrah Bridge and the Second Hooghly Bridge, hung a closure notice at the Kolkata factory gate at midnight. Birla's Hindustan Motors closed down its factory last May. Nokia-Siemens closed down their Kolkata unit leading to a loss of 1,500 jobs. Dunlop, which closed down and again commenced operations in 2010, shut shop in 2012. Several jute mills, a traditional industry employing 72,000 people, have closed down and more are threatening to wind up operations especially after S.K. Maheswari, the CEO of Northbrook Jute Mill in Hooghly's Bhadreshwar, was beaten to death by angry workers last month.

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