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Northbrook worker found dead

- Suicide whiff on eve of reopening

Chandernagore, June 30: The mutilated body of a Northbrook jute mill worker was found beside railway tracks in Hooghly this morning, a day before the factory reopens after the lynching of its president a fortnight ago.

The family members of Amir Chand Gupta, 41, said the jute mill worker might have committed suicide because he was depressed since Northbrook closed down on June 15. He had been looking for jobs for the past few days, but to no avail, his wife added.

Yesterday, too, Gupta had left his Champadani home in the afternoon telling his wife that he was going to look for a job. His body was found this morning near Baidyabati railway station, 500m from his home.

Northbrook suspended work on June 15, hours after president H.K. Maheshwari, 69, was battered to death by a section of workers agitated with the management’s proposal to cut down work hours to curb financial losses.

The murder of the mill president came at a time the jute industry in Bengal has been passing through one of its worst phases marked by labour unrest and lack of orders.

The agitation by the workers at Northbrook followed steps the management had taken over several months to curb financial losses, affecting their daily wages. Several workers had said they feared losing their jobs.

Amir’s wife Radha, in her late thirties, today said her husband was worried how he would run the family after the mill closed down on June 15.

“My husband had been suffering from depression ever since the mill closed down. He was worried how he would pay for the marriage of our daughter. We also have two sons in their early twenties and they are yet to get proper jobs. I believe he committed suicide,” Radha said.

According to the officer in charge of Sheoraphuli government railway police station, Uttam Ghosh, the body was found by some passers-by beside the tracks near Baidyabati station around 6.30am today.

“We found a piece of paper in his pocket in which a phone number was written. We called up the number and it turned out to be one his neighbour’s. The family was informed after that,” the OC said. “We can’t confirm now if it was a suicide. All we can say is that the man died after being hit by a train. The body has been sent for post-mortem.”

Northbrook today decided to reopen the factory at Champadani in phases from tomorrow. The decision was taken at a tripartite meeting chaired by the subdivisional officer of Chandernagore.

Northbrook general manager (administration) Gurudas Mitra said: “We will keep the 49 workers accused in the murder case out of the mill. There are some other employees against whom the company had taken disciplinary action. It will take about a fortnight before the mill can function normally. Some maintenance work will have to be done,” Mitra said.

The general manager added that the company, which has around 3,000 workers, had been suffering from a financial crisis in the absence of a bulk order.

Sub-divisional officer Pijush Goswami said he had urged the trade union members at the mill to co-operate with the management.

Mohammad Israel, the general secretary of the Citu-led union, said: “We are happy that the mill is reopening tomorrow. We demand that the chief executive’s murderers are punished.”