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Assault on Malaysian firm officials

- Highway company blames Trinamul faction fight over hiring of labourers

July 19: Two officials of a Malaysia-based firm entrusted with the maintenance of National Highway 2 were thrashed today by a suspected Trinamul Congress group angry that its members were not being hired as labourers.

At least 15 motorcycle-borne men dragged a project supervisor out of his car in Hooghly’s Gurap, 65km from Calcutta, and one of them hit him on the head with a knuckleduster. Two of the bikers twisted the arm of a site engineer.

The supervisor said the attackers fled when they saw him bleeding. “Our driver rushed us to our Moshagram office, 15km from the spot where we were attacked,” he said.

An ongoing tussle between two Trinamul factions over supplying labourers for the project apparently led to the assault, sources said. The two officials of Emas Expressway Pte Ltd, who refused to be identified, said they could not recognise the attackers but added that a section of Trinamul activists had made such a demand earlier.

State INTTUC president Dola Sen denied involvement of the union in the attack. “The INTTUC neither has any unit at Moshagram (Burdwan) nor in Hooghly. If someone misuses the party trade union’s name, we cannot help it. Moreover, supplying labourers or fixing contractors for a project is not the work of a trade union,” she said.

Several labourers were cleaning shrubs on NH2’s median divider in the presence of the site engineer and the supervisor this morning when the attackers arrived.

“Two Trinamul factions are competing to get their men employed as labourers at the project site. We have been entrusted with the maintenance of the 130km stretch (between Palsit and Dankuni) and want to complete our project peacefully. But unfortunately, we are getting targeted time and again because of their internal squabble,” alleged Souvik Ray, the personnel and HR manager of Emas Expressway Pte Ltd.

Company officials said this was not the first time they had been attacked by suspected Trinamul activists. “In May, one of our suppliers was beaten up when he resisted the extortion attempts of Trinamul activist, who had demanded Rs 200 for every dumper of soil supplied. We had lodged a police complaint and two local Trinamul leaders and a syndicate member had been arrested,” said deputy project manager Kushal Kumar Chatterjee.

Emas Expressway Pte Ltd had bagged the project to construct two stretches of NH2: Panagarh to Palsit and Palsit to Dankuni. It built the stretches between 2002 and 2005 and will maintain it till 2020.

Police sources said a section of local Trinamul activists had been interfering in the working of the company and had set up a party office near the Emas unit at Moshagram. “There is tension between local Trinamul leaders at Moshagram and Hooghly. Following pressure from the Moshagram faction of the INTTUC, the company engaged some men affiliated to the group. Now, leaders of the Hooghly faction want the company to hire their men,” an officer said.

Jayanta Ghosh, the leader of the Moshagram unit of the INTTUC, denied having put pressure on Emas to hire workers affiliated to it.

Sources said around 150 labourers affiliated to the INTTUC’s Moshagram unit and 120 workers owing allegiance to the Hooghly faction had been hired by Emas.

Emas today lodged a complaint with Gurap police station.

“A probe has been started,” said Hooghly superintendent of police Sunil Choudhary.