If the mafia is the bane on the waterfront, an “apathetic” police force is no less a bother.
Fed up with “continued police inaction” against goons calling the shots in the docks, the Calcutta Port Trust (CPT) authorities and traders have decided to petition Writers’ Buildings and Lalbazar. Their plea: “do something”.
More than a dozen incidents of mafia attacks on traders in the port area in the past three months have prompted this desperate measure. A letter has already been sent to the police headquarters and a meeting is being lined up with chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. In what is being seen as a move supportive of the trading community’s efforts, the CPT authorities are making their own representation to the government. “Importers and exporters using the facilities should not be facing any problem from the mafia and we are going to tell the government to ensure that,” said CPT chairman Anup Chandra.
The latest in a long line of attacks on traders was carried out on Tuesday, when goons stopped the unloading of some imported logs of wood that had arrived at two dockyards (15 and 16). Several workers were beaten up and the armed assailants roughed up some officials of the firm overseeing the unloading operations.
Officials said the attack was sparked by a CPT move to stop the illegal unloading of imported logs by the timber mafia. The goons were also enraged by parallel official moves to restore order in the docks and check extortion from importers in the guise of “unloading charges”. CPT officials said tenders had been invited for the unloading of this particular timber consignment and the highest bidder won the contract. “This enraged the mafia,” officials explained.
For the officials who bore the brunt of the attack, more was in store the day after. When they lodged a police complaint on Wednesday, officials at Taratala thana allegedly said they would do nothing. “We are not the CPT’s slaves,” was their message to the victims, officials stated.
“Even when the attack was being carried out, urgent messages were sent to the police,” a CPT official said. “But we were told the police could act only after an attack had taken place.”
Refuting the allegations as baseless, deputy commissioner (port) O.P. Gupta said: “The police are always there to help traders in trouble.”
A section of the force, however, admitted that the discovery of a truckload of AK-47 bullets, from the Dhobitala parking lot, and the spate of assaults on firms using the port had raised doubts about security at the docks.
Traders with business interests in the port said they were more “shocked” by the police attitude. “We will meet the chief minister and explain the reasons for our concern,” said Ramesh Agarwal, director of R. Pyarelal and Company.