The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Chamber in line of trade fair theft flak

Allegations of serial thefts and subsequent indifference on the part of the organisers marred the 16th Industrial and Trade Fair in Calcutta on Sunday.

A number of participants alleged that goods worth more than lakhs have been stolen from their stalls and blamed the theft on the sloppy security system provided by the Bengal National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BNCCI). One of the participants has even dashed off a letter to the Chamber, seeking to withdraw from the fair.

“A DVD set worth Rs 14,000 was stolen from my stall, EA 13, on Saturday night,” alleged Srinivas Maruwada of Divyadeep Enterprises.

“This is an open stall, in which I keep goods worth more than Rs 3 lakh. I requested the organisers for additional security, since my stall is in one corner. But they asked me to pay for it,” he said. In spite of arranging for a night guard for a price, Maruwada’s DVD was stolen.

The stall-owner alleged that the organisers did not take any action and so he has written to the BNCCI, conveying his wish to withdraw from the fair as a mark of protest. He has also lodged an FIR at Maidan police station.

“We have received the complaint and an officer has gone to the fair grounds to probe the theft,” an official of Maidan thana said, adding that similar complaints had been lodged by some other stall-owners too.

On December 26, a number of stalls in the CC sector of the fair alleged that their goods, worth nearly a lakh, were stolen. Most of the 32 stall-owners at the CC sector are up in arms against the BNCCI.

These stalls, clustered in a pavillion, are happy hunting grounds for thieves. There are gaps several feet wide between the gates and the wall through which a pilferer can easily slip in. One door has to be tied with a rope because the lock is missing.

“In the brochure, it has been mentioned that we must leave by 9 pm and return at 10 the next morning. In the interim, the security is provided by the Chamber,” said Dev Malya Majumdar, of PK Traders. However, he alleged that on December 26, garments, leather goods, cosmetics, food products and other commercial goods were stolen from several stalls of the pavillion.

Rajiv Saraf, of Om Distributors, alleged that Maidan police refused to register his diary but only received the letter of complaint. “They are not allowing us to stay here at night, despite several requests,” said one of the stall-owners. “The infrastructure is poor and we are debating whether to come back here next time,” most of the stall-owners at CC block chorused.

However, BNCCI officials feel the situation is not as grave as is being portrayed by the stall-owners. “We have 700 participants this time and most of them are happy with the infrastructure,” said D.P. Nag, BNCCI secretary. “Last Friday, we heard of the thefts. We inquired about them and alerted our securitymen,” he added. BNCCI officials also feel the stall-owners should have insured their goods. “They do not give us an inventory of their goods, so how do we know the value of the goods stolen'” an official asked.

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