Singur redux: Firm pulls out of Haldia port
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Citing unsafe work conditions, cargo handling company Haldia Bulk Terminals (HBT) on Wednesday announced its immediate exit from the West Bengal Haldia port.
Problems have been brewing at the dock complex, run by the Kolkata Port Trust (KoPT), since HBT sacked 275 employees early this month stating they were surplus. Operations of the firm jointly promoted by ABG Shipyards of India and French logistics company LDA have been hit since mid-September. On Sunday, the firm alleged that three of its employees as well as the family members of one had been kidnapped by outsiders, who released them later after warning them not to come back to Haldia.
The pullout came a day after West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee assured that full police protection was being provided at Haldia. She also claimed that everything was normal at the port and allegations of violence were media concoctions.
Gloom descended at the Haldia port town, about 140 km from Kolkata, as the news came in.
Hundreds of workers of the company walked in groups to the berths 2 and 8 where the private cargo handling agency operated. A total of around 650 people are threatened with job loss now, including the 275 odd labourers who had been retrenched earlier following the fall in volume of cargo handled by the company.
S K Noor Alam, who has been working at ABG for two years, was shocked. "It's because of political reasons that the company is leaving Haldia. I stay in Haldia town with my wife and two children and don't know how I will survive now," he said.
In a statement, HBT CEO Gurdeep Malhi said: "With a deep sense of disappointment we have to inform you that we have been left with no option but to walk out from the Haldia dock complex with immediate effect... The ever worsening situation at Haldia has left us feeling betrayed and we hope that the elements responsible for driving us out of Haldia are brought to justice... We cannot work in an environment where the authorities responsible for ensuring law and order and success of the project have openly abandoned their responsibilities... The economy of West Bengal has once again been denied growth, modernisation and development."
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