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Subhendu port agitation threat

Tamluk, Oct. 5: Trinamul MP Subhendu Adhikari today threatened to launch after October 9 an agitation against the retrenchment of 275 workers by private port operator Haldia Bulk Terminals Ltd (HBT).

Adhikari, who is also the president of the INTTUC-affiliated dock workers’ union, held a meeting this evening with the sacked workers and his close aides in the dock union. The meeting was held in the Haldia dock auditorium.

The Tamluk MP refused comment when reporters approached him after the meeting. Repeated calls to his cellphone went unanswered.

A source present at the meeting said: “Adhikari said he would launch a movement against the sackings after October 9. Chief minister Mamata Banerjee will be in East Midnapore on a two-day trip beginning October 8. After that, the agitation will begin.”

According to the sources, Adhikari told INTTUC leaders that he would also demand that both mechanised and non-mechanised handlers be given equal amount of cargo.

At a news conference earlier in the day, district Congress president Asit Pal alleged that Adhikari was “opposing the mechanised port operator because of vested interests”. “We have written to the Prime Minister,” Pal added.

Adhikari rubbished the charge, saying: “I don’t have time to listen to allegations levelled by the Congress.”

Last month, HBT sacked the workers citing union-negotiated terms, inflexible “profile” of the surplus employees and “unrest created by certain factions”. The company, which runs two mechanised berths at the Haldia port, had said they were forced to take more workers under political pressure. The layoffs sparked labour unrest, leading to the closure of the two berths.

At a meeting with the Calcutta Port Trust chairman yesterday, all stakeholders of the Haldia port had apparently agreed to strike a middle path to end the impasse.