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Haldia port firm alleges assault

Calcutta, Oct. 10: Private port operator Haldia Bulk Terminal Ltd today expressed “concern” on the “continued state of lawlessness” at Haldia port and alleged that sacked workers and goons backed by a Trinamul union had assaulted and threatened staff.

The company filed two FIRs at a local police station, alleging two incidents of assault and threat, one inside the dock area and the other outside.

HBT, which has suspended cargo-handling operations at two berths since some of the 275 workers it sacked last month allegedly roughed up existing workers, warned such incidents could be “severely detrimental” to the users of the port and to the state as a whole.

The warning came less than 24 hours after chief minister Mamata Banerjee and industries minister Partha Chatterjee visited Haldia. Both claimed the law and order situation at the port and the industrial town was normal. They were echoed by local Trinamul MP Subhendu Adhikari.

The allegation of fresh violence has come at a time Calcutta Port Trust, which controls the Haldia Dock Complex (HDC), has offered an additional berth in Haldia to HBT if the private player agrees to reinstate the sacked employees.

One of the FIRs lodged today mentioned an incident at City Centre in Haldia town where a 100-strong mob, including some of the retrenched employees, allegedly gheraoed HBT’s office, threatening and assaulting staff.

Barely 45 minutes later at 12.30, some people allegedly attacked HBT staff at the company’s port office at berth No. 2.

The FIR said an INTTUC secretary, Samiran Betal, called up and threatened the operations manager and shift leader. Betal could not be contacted for comment.

Company CEO Gurpreet Malhi said HBT was “extremely worried and saddened” by such “violent turn of events continuing”.

“If this situation were to continue, not only would Haldia be deemed a place where law and order do not apply, but it would also be severely detrimental to each and every end-users of the HDC and as a consequence to the entire state of Bengal.”

Sources said the board of trustees of CPT, its top decision-making body, might meet on Friday to discuss the situation and decide on the fate of HBT’s continuation at Haldia.

Manish Jain, chairman of CPT, said the local administration should take action if any incident of violence has taken place.

HBT, a joint venture between ABG Ports of Mumbai and LDA of France, has suspended work on Haldia’s two top performing berths for more than three weeks alleging poor law and order situation.