The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Manager thrashed by Puja extortionists

Durgapur, Aug. 30: A young executive was dragged out of his car and beaten up with rods, kicked and punched until he slumped to the ground bleeding last night because he refused to give Rs 7,000 as Durga Puja subscription.

About 30 youths surrounded Bipul Panigrahi’s silver-grey Tata Indica as it rolled out of the Cosmic Ferroalloys factory at Borjora, an industry hub, in Bankura.

The windscreen of the car was smashed and the 31-year-old chartered accountant was yanked out of it by the youths who would not settle for a paisa less than the amount they had demanded.

As the goons pounced on his boss, Panigrahi’s driver screamed for help. He was attacked, too, but the cry for help had reached the factory from where some of the workers rushed out. Seeing them, the hoodlums fled.

Panigrahi, a commercial manager at the plant, 230 km from Calcutta, has received stitches on his chest and abdomen. His left wrist and left eye were also bruised.

At the Borjora police station today, he named the man who had led the Ghutgoria Sarbojonin Club members — Prabir Mondal.

The police said all the accused are absconding.

Originally a Howrah resident, Panigrahi, a bachelor, had been working at the plant for the past two years and staying at the company’s guesthouse.

Around 10 last night, he was returning to the guesthouse when he was attacked. “They beat me with bamboo sticks, umbrellas and rods. I was bleeding profusely and collapsed,” Panigrahi said.

“I’d refused to pay them Rs 500 for every loaded truck that would roll out of the plant,” he added from his nursing home bed.

Earlier last evening, the youths had stopped 14 trucks loaded with ferro-manganese near the factory gate. “They stopped our trucks heading to Haldia port with a consignment meant for shipment to Germany, Dubai and Karachi. I requested the youths not to delay our trucks and agreed to pay Rs 50 per truck, which they refused,” said Panigrahi.

A police jeep on patrol spotted the youths and intervened. The police cleared the way for the trucks and the youths slipped away. They got back a few hours later.

Had it not been for the driver, Vikram Singh, Panigrahi could have been killed.

Bankura industrialists felt the incident would send a wrong signal to investors.

“We condemn the incident. Some of them might be scared after the incident,” said Anil Jain, an executive member of the West Bengal Sponge Iron Manufacturers’ Association.

Panigrahi has sent a copy of the complaint he lodged to chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.

No arrests were reported till late this evening. “We have launched a search for the accused,” said district superintendent of police Rajesh Kumar. “I have also asked the local police to keep a strict watch on the roads and factory sites to stop extortion in the name of puja subscriptions,” he added.

Those caught trying to collect chanda (subscriptions) forcibly would now be arrested immediately.

Bankura CPM secretary Amiya Patra said the party would not allow some people to tarnish the district’s image.

The Citu general secretary of the Borjora industrial estate, Tarun Raj, went to the nursing home in Borjora town today to assure the injured manager full support of the CPM labour arm.

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