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Haldia rider for ABG’s Calcutta job

Calcutta, Nov. 29: The Calcutta Port Trust will give a 10-year contract in Calcutta to ABG, the parent of Haldia Bulk Terminals (HBT), but with a rider.

The fate of the ABG contract won through an auction will be tied to a settlement in Haldia, from where HBT has pulled out.

The board of trustees, the apex decision-making body of the CPT, today decided to give the ABG the contract to put up mobile harbour cranes at a berth in Calcutta to handle container cargo.

But the port said ABG must be ready to accept the consequences in case HBT and its parent were blacklisted in Haldia.

“The CPT has initiated a process to blacklist HBT. If that happens and in case ABG Ports is also implicated, we will have no other option but to cancel the contract whenever that happens. ABG ports must inform us by writing that they agree to take this liability. If they agree, we will issue the letter of intent,” a senior CPT official said.

If ABG turns down the condition, the CPT will have to seek fresh bids. An ABG source said the company would respond only after receiving formal communication from the CPT. “Legal options are open,” he added.

HBT had terminated the contract at Haldia alleging law and order problems. It had also said the CPT had failed to ensure enough business and adequate security.

The CPT had accused HBT of abandoning the contract and sought damages, apart from threatening to blacklist the firm.

Blacklisting will make the firm ineligible to work at either the Calcutta Dock System or the Haldia Dock Complex.

Sources said the trustees spent a long time today deliberating whether ABG Ports should be given the contract.

A trustee member representing a city-based chamber of commerce and having strong ties with Ripley, a manual contractor at Haldia, raised several questions on why ABG should be given the contract after the Haldia trouble.

Flat arrest

Another element was added to the controversy when police arrested Ramakanta Burman, the co-ordinator of the Haldia Dock Bachao Committee who protested the exit of HBT from the port, today from his Salt Lake flat on the charge of forgery.

“Burman and his brother had jointly bought a flat in Lake Town from a promoter, Suresh Podder, in 2006. The price of the flat was Rs 39 lakh but Burman paid only Rs 15 lakh,” said an officer at Lake Town police station.

In court, the police did not seek custody and Burman was granted bail on a surety of Rs 5,000. The complaint was filed in early 2011.

Burman said he was “framed” to foil an expose. “Today, I was called to a meeting of the members of the trustee board at the office of the Calcutta port. The document that I had gathered would have blown the lid off a multi-crore scam involving senior politicians. So I was framed in this case,” Burman said outside the court.

Burman claimed that it was his brother, not he, who had brought the flat.

Burman, posted as a junior assistant manager of the Haldia Dock Complex, was transferred to Calcutta in September this year and suspended later.