Subhendu Adhikari at the news conference. (Amit Datta)
Calcutta, Oct. 30: Trinamul MP Subhendu Adhikari today said the second-lowest bidder for the tender to instal mobile cranes at Haldia port should “get the opportunity” to work in the berths held by Haldia Bulk Terminals (HBT) if the company cannot provide the service.
Subhendu did not take names. A consortium of Ripley, a manual cargo handler, and a Tata Group company was the second-lowest bidder for the global tender floated in 2009. HBT, a joint venture between ABG Ports of Mumbai and LDA of France, won the bid.
“There are avenues available before the port authorities,” Subhendu said. “If the company (HBT) cannot provide the service, then the second bidder should get the opportunity. Fresh tenders can also be floated,” he said, but immediately added: “We have no issues with who gets the contract. We are here to protect the rights of the workers.”
The Tamluk MP, who heads several INTTUC-backed factory unions in Haldia, spoke at the Trinamul headquarters in Topsia two days after three HBT officials were allegedly abducted by an armed gang, packed into a train to Calcutta and told never to return to Haldia.
This incident and several others of HBT employees being allegedly assaulted by retrenched workers, many of whom are affiliated to the INTTUC, have raised doubts on whether the mechanised cargo handler will work in the Haldia port anymore.
This could create the space for Calcutta Port Trust (CPT) to induct a contractor for berths 2 and 8, now with HBT.
There have been allegations that Trinamul is trying to protect the interests of Ripley, owned by the family of Swapan Sadhan Bose (Tutu Bose), a former Rajya Sabha member on a Trinamul ticket. His son Srinjoy is now a member of the Rajya Sabha, also with Trinamul support.
Subhendu denied he was trying to serve the interests of any company. “These allegations are baseless. There is no truth in them,” he said.
The Trinamul leader also said twice in the course of the news conference that the trouble being reported in Haldia was “sajano (concocted)” — a word Mamata Banerjee had used to dismiss the Park Street rape case.
Subhendu said “a small section of the media” was spreading “tales that have no relation with reality”. He denied accusations that Trinamul trade unions ran syndicates and extorted money.
The other 10 berths at the Haldia port are functioning normally and the reports of disturbance are being deliberately floated to malign the state government, he said. “There is no law and order issue. Ask the investors who have set up shop there or are planning to do so. I invite you all to come to Haldia and see for yourself.”
He denied that the state’s image as an investment destination had suffered after reports emerged that HBT employees had fled Haldia. He said several companies had made a beeline for the industrial town and named Sanjiv Goenka, C.K. Dhanuka and Karan Paul.
However, the projects of the companies that the industrialists own began during the Left regime.
HBT has suspended operations at Haldia since September 24 because of labour unrest sparked by the sacking of 275 workers.
Subhendu hit out at the Congress and the CPM for their attacks on Trinamul. “If they (Congress and CPM leaders) are really interested in protecting the interests of Bengal, they should raise the issue of dredging with the Centre. The Centre is yet to provide the state government this year’s subsidy on capital dredging. They are also silent on the moratorium imposed by the central pollution control board (on Haldia),” he said.
However, the Tamluk MP has been found wanting when it came to arranging 100 acres on lease for three years in Nandigram for shore dumping of dredged silt.
Port officials said the dredging would not be successful if silt was again dumped in the river. “Despite repeated requests, the political leadership has not come forward in creating public support for the land acquisition,” an official said.