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Trinamul protest stalls road widening

- Labourers close plant for highway work for two-fold increase in wages

Kharagpur, Sept. 2: Work on widening a stretch of NH6 has been stalled for the past four days after alleged Trinamul supporters locked a private plant entrusted with the project in Kharagpur.

Eighteen contract labourers, all of whom said they were Trinamul activists, locked the gates of the Dinesh Chandra R. Agarwal company on August 29 demanding that their wages be doubled.

The National Highways Authority of India had last year entrusted Ashoka Buildcon with six-laning a 111km stretch from Dankuni to Kharagpur on build-operate-transfer (BOT) basis .

The private company had later awarded a sub-contract to Dinesh Chandra R. Agarwal company for building a 57km stretch from Kolaghat to Kharagpur, asking it to complete the project by December 2013. Work started this April.

Under the BOT system, the company will collect toll tax for 25 years after the project is complete.

Senior project manager Sumse Alam, an engineer with Dinesh Chandra R. Agarwal company, said they had set up the project plant at Krishnanagar near Kharagpur to stock sand, stone chips, bitumen, steel and other construction material.

The company had employed 250 workers, including an assistant project manager, engineers, maintenance staff and drivers, for the plant.

“But some local villagers, who called themselves Trinamul Congress activists, demanded that they be given jobs of loading and unloading. We hired 18 of them,” Alam said.

According to a contract, Alam said, the labourers were to be paid Rs 2 for carrying a sack of cement and Rs 125 for loading and unloading every tonne of steel from trailers.

The project manager said the alleged Trinamul supporters also demanded that they be paid for unloading diesel, sand and bitumen, which, he added, were done “mechanically”.

“Diesel and bitumen are brought in tankers and unloaded through pipes. Sand, moram and stone chips are carried in dumpers and unloaded mechanically. Labourers are not required for these jobs.”

Alam added that the company, however, had paid the 18 workers an additional Rs 50,000 to Rs 60,000 a month since April, but they asked for double the amount and stopped loading and unloading work at the plant.

All the 18 workers refused comment.

The president of the Youth Trinamul Congress of Lachhmanpur, Priyaranjan Maity, denied the charges against his party workers and alleged that Alam was out to “malign” the party. “No one from the project plant turned up to negotiate with the agitators,” Maity said.

West Midnapore district superintendent of police Sunil Chowdhury said he would seek a report from Kharagpur police on the “latest position”.

An NHAI official in the district said: “It is the duty of the company to complete the job within the time period. We are keeping a watch on the situation.”