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‘Rule’: Pay to do business

Trucks outside the DSP gate on Wednesday. (Arup Sarkar)

Durgapur, Sept. 3: Some factory owners who supply spare parts and raw materials to Durgapur Steel Plant (DSP) have alleged that local Trinamul Congress workers collect money from them at the plant gates for each consignment.

A youth at a DSP gate who identified himself as a Trinamul trade union member said forcing truck drivers to pay up was “the rule here”. Ruling party leaders in the industrial town denied the allegation of extortion.

Factory owners said they had met Burdwan INTTUC president Prabhat Chatterjee and Durgapur mayor Apurba Mukherjee several times to complain about the “strongarm tactics” of party workers, but to no avail.

Kripal Singh, the president of the Durgapur Small Industries’ Association, alleged that the Trinamul workers refused to allow trucks into the DSP complex if the drivers did not give in to their extortion demands.

“We already pay toll taxes between Rs 60 and Rs 80 a truck to carry raw materials and finished products from our factories to the DSP plant. Then we have to shell out amounts between Rs 150 and Rs 250, depending on the truck’s size, to Trinamul workers at the DSP gates. If we do not pay, the Trinamul workers don’t allow the trucks to enter the plant,” said Singh, whose association has over 100 factories as members.

The association members met senior DSP officials and urged them to stop the extortion. The officials, however, pleaded helplessness, saying the incident was taking place outside the plant premises.

“We approached the DSP management and the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), which mans the factory gates. CISF officials told us that they were responsible for security inside the plant compound,” Singh said.

The factory owners met Trinamul leaders Chatterjee and Mukherjee after talks with the DSP and the CISF did not yield results.

“The two leaders advised us to tackle the situation on our own. We told them that it would not be possible for us to approach police as the extortionists are ruling party workers and we have to run our business here,” Singh said.

Chatterjee denied the allegation against the Trinamul workers.

“I enquired and found out that no Trinamul worker is involved in extortion. I have told the factory owners to lodge a police complaint,” he said.

Repeated calls to Mukherjee’s phone went unanswered.

When this correspondent visited the DSP plant today, hundreds of trucks were seen queued up outside one of the gates in the Tamla area. A man in a green T-shirt who identified himself as Kalu and claimed to be an INTTUC member was collecting money from each truck.

Asked why the drivers were paying him, he said: “It is the rule here. If any loaded truck wants to enter the plant, our union will have to be paid.” Kalu said trucks bringing silico and ferro manganese from other states were charged Rs 300 each.

Asked which union he belonged to, Kalu said: “Trinamul.”

The deputy inspector-general of the CISF at the DSP plant, J. Ghosh, said there was no rule requiring such payments.

“Before allowing a truck to enter the plant, we verify the documents of each vehicle digitally and also check the work order and challans issued by the plant management. There is no rule to pay money to anybody for this purpose,” Ghosh said.

DSP’s chief of communications, B.R. Kanungo, said: “Since the incident (alleged extortion) is taking place outside the plant gates, we are helpless. However, we will try to look into the matter as businessmen are sending materials to us.”