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What 'parivartan'? It's business as usual at Haldia

Last updated on: September 6, 2011 11:59 IST

What 'parivartan'? It's business as usual at Haldia

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Shine Jacob in Kolkata

In 2007, East Medinipur district was home to a massacre that took place when 14 villagers were gunned down by the state police over the Nandigram agitations.

The event turned out to be the Waterloo for the Left it lost 16 seats in the Assembly elections though East Medinipur was considered to be its stronghold who were subsequently trounced for the first time in 34 years.

It also changed the political fortunes of the current Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

Mamata had campaigned under the promise of 'Parivartan' or change, promising a new era of decision making that would be more sympathetic to the people's concerns.

However, reports from the Haldia Development Authority which houses some of the state's leading industrial projects - once led by CPM strongman Lakshman Seth and now by Trinamool Congress (TMC) Member of Parliament, Suvendu Adhikari - suggests that it is business as usual at Haldia.

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Image: Mamata Banerjee, Chief Minister - West Bengal.
Photographs: Reuters
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"Just the colour has changed from red to green, not corruption," says a day labourer at the Haldia Dock Complex.

"In Haldia, the same people who traumatised us during Left regime have just changed colours like a chameleon and come back as Trinamool Congress workers," he adds.

Locals say the same mistakes that the Left had made through Nandigram such as goonda raj, corruption and high-handedness are being repeated by the TMC .

"If CPM's Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) used to take Rs 200 as chanda from workers per month, TMC's Indian National Trinamool Trade Union Congress (INTTUC)has just doubled it or are compelling lower grade workers to give a day's salary," said a top Haldia Refinery official. About 40,000 people work across all the projects in the region.

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What 'parivartan'? It's business as usual at Haldia

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The Left's loss of electoral power has meant a dramatic collapse for CITU which is affiliated with the Communist Party (Marxist), which has been compelled to close down nearly 16 of its offices in the recent months.

"It's a fact that INTTUC  members are forcefully taking money from the factory workers. Those who are not ready to join their union are not allowed to even work," said Sudarshan Manna, CITU district secretary. "Even people with 20 to 25 years experience were thrown out of job by new contractors."

According to a local Left leader, TMC activists are extorting money from workers in a range of about Rs 50,00 to Rs 1,00,000 depending on the grade of the new jobs for industrial projects.

"This is happening in all projects including Exide, CESC, Adani Wilmar and Gokul Refinery, with or without the knowledge of the management," he says.

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What 'parivartan'? It's business as usual at Haldia

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Adds Manna: "In last few months, we have filed more than 60 cases regarding the INTTUC goondaisms against workers. But the state police has not taken even a single step to tackle this."

In a change of stance Seth, who was the mastermind behind the selection of Nandigram for a chemical hub project by Indonesia-based Salim Group, said Adhikari and team have just started at HDA and it is not yet time to asses them.

When asked about the recent violence, he said, "Haldia is peaceful now. Didi (Banerjee) has said that there will be no political violence in the state. Let us wait and watch."

Strangely, one group who recently lost their jobs were none other than INTTUC workers - sixty of them - whom you would imagine to be safe from such upheavals since they are theoretically allied with Trinamool.

"When a new contractor took charge, we were thrown out of the job without any prior notice. We are INTTUC workers and have experience of about six to seven years, still we lost the job," says Mrinmay Kuity, a striking INTTUC worker.

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What 'parivartan'? It's business as usual at Haldia

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"For one month, we are sitting here, though the local MP Adhikari is in talks with the Kolkata Port Trust (KoPT) authorities, nothing is happening," he adds.

Adhikari considers these allegations to be a thing of the past. "Once I took over as the MP and chairman of HDA, we stopped all these practices like extortion of money, run by CITU offices in the region. Now, Haldia is ushering a new era in, with many fresh investments on its way," he said.

The new projects on track include a Rs 4,000 crore (Rs 40 billion) investment for expansion plans by HPL, Rs 8,000 crore (Rs 80 billion) Haldia-Paradip pipeline, apart from an IOC pipeline in the route.

HDA has total a total land area of 5,198 acres, out of which 2,184 acre is used for industrial purpose, 524 acre for infrastructure projects like road and water supply, 348 acre for social infrastructure, 93 acre for residential and 490 acre for rehabilitation purposes.

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What 'parivartan'? It's business as usual at Haldia

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Land in possession of HDA earmarked for various projects is around 1,039 acres, while land lying unutilised is about 520 acres.

The region has major industrial projects like South Asian Petrochemicals, IOC, Exide, Shaw Wallace, Tata Chemicals, HPL, Mitsubishi Chemicals and Hindustan Lever, in addition to various light industries.

Lot of other projects like CESC power plant and Sino Steel project are at different stages of incorporation.

"I took charge of HDA a few weeks ago. In a few months ago, you are going to see huge investments and three or four new projects, as they are in finals stages of getting clearance," said Adhikari.

While stating that land losers would get the first priority for jobs, Adhikari said nearly 1,000 people have got jobs in various projects since he became the Tamluk MP.

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What 'parivartan'? It's business as usual at Haldia

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Clearly, the chief minister has gotten wind of developments in Haldia. She came out in public a few weeks ago and asked the industrialists not to pay those who seek money on her party's behalf.

"In some areas there are people who are misusing the names of some others to demand money. Please don't pay. We don't want money and it is not our policy. I want Bengal's development," she said, while addressing some industrialists from the state.

She may have to do a lot more than that to keep her credibility. As one IOC official remarked, "If father (CPM) was a thief, the son (TMC) may well become looter, if not stopped at right time."



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