Bankim’s father at their hut in Jalpaiguri. Picture by Biplab Basak
Siliguri, Oct. 6: Bankim Choudhury counted, perhaps for the hundredth time, the last salary that he drew from the Tata Motor’s plant in Singur as an apprentice.
This seems to be his only job now. “This, and praying to Ma Durga so that I am absorbed into the other factories owned by Tata Motor’s,” said Bankim as he sat on the veranda of his hut that looked as if it would not survive the next monsoon.
The dreams of Bankim, the son of a rickshaw-puller in Jalpaiguri’s Saradapalli, and some of his friends, were shattered when Ratan Tata announced on October 3 that he was withdrawing from Singur because of the Trinamul Congress agitation.
“I was happy working as a apprentice at the engine assembly unit in the mother plant. But the Trinamul Congress’s agitation stopped our training and the final blow came when Tata announced the pullout,” said the 26-year-old youth.
The apprentices who got a monthly stipend of Rs 1,700 were expected to be absorbed after a year’s training. Bankim, a diploma holder from Jalpaiguri Polytechnic Institute, is reluctant to spend even one paise of the September salary. “I know I should spend, at least for my family, but I cannot get myself to do it.”
With uncertainty looming large, Bankim and 30 of his friends from north Bengal are pinning their hopes on a message in which the company asked them to undergo training at Central Training Institute in Dasnagar near Howrah from October 20.
“As work at the plant came to a standstill, we were told at the end of last month that the training would be conducted elsewhere,” said Sanjoy Ghosh, a trainee from Mahamayapara in Jalpaiguri. “We received our salaries for September and are banking on the session at Dasnagar. In case the training is cancelled, we had better look for other options.”
Tata, while making his “regrettable announcement” last week, had not mentioned specifically what his company planned to do with the apprentices that it had taken for Singur.
While some trainees are optimistic, their families are worried and want them to start scouting for new jobs.
“I can understand the worry of our parents. Just when they thought that the hardship was over, it is back to haunt them. If the situation does not improve after Pujas, we will have to go job hunting, may be outside Bengal,” said Ratan Roy of Mainaguri.