Pramanik (in green shirt) at the demonstration outside Graphite India. Picture by Arup Sarkar
Durgapur, March 6: A Trinamul leader accused of detaining officials at Durgapur’s Jai Balaji Industries in December today stalled work at the biggest unit of Graphite India, the country’s largest producer of graphite electrodes.
Over 500 workers led by Ashim Pramanik, whom Trinamul had disowned after the Jai Balaji unrest but who was seen sharing the stage with the Durgapur mayor a couple of weeks later, demonstrated outside Graphite India Ltd in Durgapur today, demanding that the company hire workers so that the existing employees do not have to work overtime.
Company officials The Telegraph spoke to denied there was any shortage of hands.
The president of the Bengal Chamber of Commerce said workers had to put in extra hours if the load was high but induction of hands was “absolutely the management’s prerogative”.
Today, armed with INTTUC flags and banners, the protesters sat on a dharna outside the company’s main gate at the Sagarbhanga industrial complex from 11am to 2pm and prevented employees from entering.
Pramanik, the joint general secretary of Graphite India Ltd Contractor Workers’ Union, said: “The management had in 2008 interviewed 520 youths for contract jobs and shortlisted 70. But they are yet to get appointment letters. The company is short of hands. It is forcing its employees to work overtime without pay. If the authorities don’t recruit the youths selected in 2008, we will not allow work here.”
Pramanik’s union is one of three INTTUC-backed unions in Graphite India.
Sources said most of the 70 youths who were shortlisted became Trinamul loyalists after the party formed the government in 2011.
A senior Graphite India official in Durgapur, where 1,200 people work, said the unit did not have a shortage of hands. “We are managing work smoothly here,” he said.
Senior vice-president (corporate) of Graphite India Ltd, Sushil Chowdhury, said in Calcutta: “What happened in Durgapur may be a minor issue and I am not aware of it.”
Asked if there was shortage of manpower at the Durgapur plant, he said: “The unions may have their grievances but we have no information about shortage of manpower at our Durgapur plant.”
The K.K. Bangur-owned and Calcutta-headquartered company has four plants — three in India (Durgapur, Bangalore and Nashik) and one in Germany.
The Durgapur plant was set up in 1967 and is the largest of the four. The annual production capacity of the plant is 34,000 tonnes. The company exports around 65 per cent of its output to over 50 countries.
Kallol Dutta, the chief of the Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said: “If the load is higher, employees will have to work overtime. In case workload is lower, some may remain idle. But induction of people should absolutely be the management’s prerogative.”
Today’s protest was lifted after a senior manager of the plant, Tamal Bhattacharya, assured the agitators that their grievances would be looked into.
“We have withdrawn the agitation temporarily. But if our demands are not addressed, we will stall work again,” Pramanik said.
According to the officials, work at the factory was often hampered as the three INTTUC-affiliated unions came up with different demands “almost every day” and organised sit-ins.
“The three unions come up with new demands almost every day. All of them are trying to show their strength. We have to bear the brunt of their protests. We have informed INTTUC state president Dola Sen and labour minister Purnendu Bose,” a senior plant official said on condition of anonymity.
Bose refused comment.
District INTTUC president Prabhat Chatterjee, who had after the Jai Balaji unrest said Pramanik did not belong to Trinamul, today refused to speak about him. “The only thing that I can tell you is such an agitation or movement should not be organised without permission from higher authorities.”