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PM words ring true in L&T shutdown

Durgapur, July 18: Cement maker Larsen & Toubro has stopped production in its factory here after some goons, said to be hired by the local truck owners’ union, roughed up factory officials today.

The decision has come two days after Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee asked the government to think why business had left Bengal, hinting the state lacked an investment environment.

“We may have to approach the government for a solution to the problem of unionised transport operators who are hampering production and dispatch of cement from Durgapur to different places,” said Bhupesh Kapoor, L&T vice-president, from Mumbai.

Kapoor, however, was quick to say that production was halted because of the rising stock spurred by severe dislocation in dispatching. “We stopped dispatches, as a result of which production was curtailed.”

The development is being perceived as a blow to chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, who yesterday tore into Vajpayee’s observations by defending Bengal’s economic record.

Bhattacharjee had persuaded L&T to set up the 1-million-tonne plant in Durgapur hoping to revive the industrial hub, wracked by closure of central engineering companies and militant trade unionism. He had inaugurated it in January 2002.

Trouble broke today around 1 am when a group gathered outside the factory damaged a few trucks parked there. When security staff, four personnel department officials and two transport contractors rushed to the spot, they were manhandled.

The officials, however, managed to enter. When transport contractors Baba Singh and Biswanath Karmakar later drove out in a car, they were thrashed, factory officials said. They filed an FIR with the Kanksa police station.

The attack was spurred by the factory’s decision, based on oil prices, to cut transport costs by 15 per cent from Tuesday.

Debabrata Banerjee, former CPM MLA from Durgapur and Citu’s Burdwan secretary, said: “The Truck Owners Association is not affiliated to the Citu. However, we are strongly objecting to last night’s incident.”

Burdwan police superintendent B.. Ramesh said he has asked the Durgapur additional superintendent to arrest the culprits. No one from the truck owners’ association was available for comment.

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