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Rifle factory death sparks mob fury

Barrackpore, Feb. 28: Trouble broke out at the rifle factory in Ichhapore this morning after a worker died under suspicious circumstances.

Police said Mrinal Dasgupta, 41, posted as a storekeeper in the central warehouse of the defence unit, died on way to hospital after being rescued from drowning in a pond on the factory premises.

As news of Dasgupta’s death spread, hundreds of workers — owing allegiance to the Citu-backed All-India Defence Factory Workers’ Union — turned violent and went on the rampage.

They ransacked the office of the unit’s general manager, damaging office equipment worth lakhs of rupees. A contingent of the Rapid Action Force was deployed to bring the situation under control.

“Employees became violent when Dasgupta fell into the pond around 8 am. Other workers of the factory rescued him. The factory ambulance was summoned, but it arrived late. This sparked protests from the employees who went on the rampage and ransacked the office premises damaging furniture, fax machines, telephones and glass cubicles,” North 24-Parganas district police superintendent Basudeb Bag said. “We are probing the matter and can’t say anything until we get the post-mortem report,” he added.

Dasgupta’s colleagues maintained that he had gone to the pond to wash his arm, which he had injured while moving crates, and slipped and fell in. Some others said Dasgupta jumped into the pond to commit suicide.

Factory workers, however, blamed the authorities for Dasgupta’s death. “The new general manger had changed the duty roster of the ambulance drivers and engaged them for other duties. Today, when the ambulance was called up, none of the drivers was on duty in the ambulance section. But general manager H.L. Kapoor threatened that the driver would be suspended for arriving an hour late. This angered the workers, who felt that this was unfair as the driver had been posted on duty elsewhere,” said Pradip Bose, secretary of the factory’s Intuc-led union.

Kapoor, when contacted tonight, said it was a case of suicide. “The attack by employees was pre-planned and aimed at destroying our work culture,” he added.

Factory sources said Dasgupta was facing a probe for allegedly mishandling a crate of ammunition that was lost from his custody about a month ago.

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