The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Pat on port, rap for unions

Calcutta, July 13: Union minister for shipping Shatrughan Sinha today held the militant unions at the Rajabagan dockyard in Garden Reach responsible for the plummeting fortunes of the Central Inland Water Transport Corporation.

“The hostile political situation in the dockyard created by militant trade unions is responsible for its decline,” Sinha said. He had just flagged off P.T. Tuticorin, a pusher tug, from the yard. Later, the actor-turned-minister told officials of the corporation that unions belonging to the CPM and the BJP ally Trinamul Congress were affecting work and should be dealt with firmly.

Sinha hinted at a second revival package for the corporation and extended the time-frame of the ongoing Rs 150-crore scheme to revive the organisation, which is responsible for water transport. “As the dock has done a commendable job last year by commissioning two vessels and increased revenue by Rs 2 crore, the proposal will be reviewed,” Sinha said.

The minister said he has asked the officials to take measures to increase the company’s competitiveness and laid stress on keeping an eye on overstaffing, reducing bureaucracy and red-tapism.

“This problem (the unions) needs to be dealt with strongly by the management. Otherwise, there is little hope for revival of the dockyard,” Sinha said.

The Citu reacted sharply to the allegations levelled against it. Its secretary, Kali Ghosh, said: “This is a very old practice followed by the management of any industrial unit. The management often blames trade unions to hide their own fault in running industrial units smoothly.”

Ghosh added that the Citu was a responsible trade union and had given up the path of violent trade unionism. “We don’t encourage any sort of gherao and similar activities. Rather, we want to make industrial units profit-making,” he added.

The managing director of the corporation, Praful Tayal, held the unions — the two factions of the employees’ association, one backed by the Citu and the other by Trinamul — responsible for labour problems. “Due to pressure from the unions, we have to pay the labourers thrice the rate for loading and unloading of cargo. If we cannot curb militant trade unions, the dock will not survive,” he said.

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