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Police patrol for jute mills

Calcutta, June 17: The Bengal government today asked district administrations to deploy police patrols near jute mills, seeking to address industry’s concerns at a time the murder of a chief executive has prompted more factories to suspend work over issues simmering for long.

The state government also tried to play down the possible impact of Sunday’s lynching on the already grim industrial climate in Bengal. But the directive to the administrations to send police to defuse possible flashpoints and a few other announcements aimed at building confidence betrayed the government’s worry.

“We would instruct the district administrations to arrange for police patrols…. Police supervision, especially during shift changes at the mills, would cut down on the chances of such incidents,” Bengal labour minister Purnendu Bose today told the Trinamul union’s representatives from 51 jute mills.

Yesterday, a group of industrialists had met the chief minister and apprised her of investors’ concerns in the wake of the murder of H.K. Maheshwari, the chief of operations at Northbrook Jute in Hooghly.

Today, the chief executive officers of 16 jute mills in Hooghly, Howrah and North 24-Parganas sought police protection for senior officials. The CEOs met at a guesthouse in Hooghly a few hours before Maheshwari’s funeral.

Bose sought to paint a less gloomy picture. “This is not the first time that such an incident has taken place…. I can think of at least five others in the recent past…. But that has never had an adverse impact on the industrial environment,” the minister said, iterating the government’s “zero tolerance” for such incidents.

The minister cited instances from the Left era and insisted that the industrial climate did not suffer on account of such incidents.

“There were incidents of the management being attacked during the previous government…” he said, reeling off events in 2001, 2002, 2008 and 2011.

Soon after the minister spoke, word came in about two jute mills suspending operations and unrest at two other factories. The immediate trigger appeared to be the murder at Northbrook but the fundamental reasons were those plaguing the jute industry for long. ( )

The state labour minister told leaders of the INTTUC (the Trinamul union) to play “proactive roles” to prevent violence in the mills.

Bose has called a meeting at the Assembly on Thursday, to be attended by the union representatives and MLAs of constituencies where the mills are located. A tripartite meeting is scheduled on June 25 to discuss wages and working hours.