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An arrest that betrays nerves

Chunulal Mishra

Asansol, July 24: The Bengal government today allowed police to arrest a Trinamul union leader, responding to an ultimatum by Eastern Coalfields Ltd (ECL) and betraying industry-related jitters that stood in sharp contrast with the inflexibility on the political front.

Chunulal Mishra was arrested two days after ECL threatened to shut down a mine in Raiganj unless action was taken against him for allegedly assaulting a manager and later intimidating the same officer and a colleague.

Mishra was also suspended from the INTTUC, the Trinamul’s trade union arm, after what was described as an internal probe.

The twin actions against Mishra contrasted with the government’s belligerence on controversial politicians such as Anubrata Mondal, Manirul Islam and Tapas Paul.

Although some of these politicians have been accused of grave crimes, the crucial difference is that Mishra’s alleged strong-arm tactics have compounded the woes on the industrial front. Shutdowns, a lynching and extortion threats have been making news in Bengal industry, not big-ticket investments, which are yet to materialise.

The action came in the middle of preparations by Mamata to visit Singapore on her first foreign tour as chief minister. Facts such as ECL being Bengal’s largest employer that gives work to 70,000 people and supplying 20-25 per cent of the coal for power generation also weighed heavily on the government, sources said.

“We have been informed by the police that Mishra has been arrested. We are keeping a watch on the situation and the decision of closing down the mine will be revoked after a meeting on Saturday,” said Niladri Roy, director (technical), ECL.

The police, which had been citing the anticipatory bail granted to Mishra in the assault case for not arresting him, acted on the basis of two subsequent complaints about threatening managers through text messages and phone calls.

ECL managers B.K. Singh, who was allegedly assaulted on July 18, and Ashim Mandal had filed complaints mentioning the threats on July 21 and 22.

Vineet Goyal, Asansol-Durgapur commissioner of police, said: “Mishra was charged under sections 506 IPC and 66A of the Information Technology Act and will be produced in court tomorrow.”

Mishra has been suspended as secretary of the colliery union at JK Nagar in Raiganj. Hareram Singh, general secretary of INTTUC-backed Koyla Khadan Sramik Congress, said: “We found Mishra guilty of assaulting and threatening ECL managers. We will not tolerate such activities in industries.”