The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Two steps backward before one step forward
- Factory managers thrashed

Durgapur, Nov. 8: Around the time Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee was crowing about his success in turning around Bengal's industry scenario in his five years in office, workers allegedly owing allegiance to Citu beat up two managers of a sponge iron factory in Bankura.

J.R. Bahel, the general manager of the plant in Barjora, is now in a nursing home with a fractured right wrist and a swollen eye. His deputy, Sharad Kedia, is also there, with stitches on his face and four teeth missing.

When Bahel, a retired general manager of Durgapur Steel Plant, and Kedia reached the factory ' 230 km from Calcutta ' around 10 am on Sunday, they saw a group of workers chatting at the entrance. Bahel stepped out of his car and asked them to join work.

He was first held by his collar, then pushed to the ground and kicked. When Kedia hollered for help, he was dragged out of the car and thrashed.

If the chief minister thinks he has been 'successful' in instilling work ethics, he lives in an illusion.

Bahel said from the nursing home bed he was singled out by the workers because he had been trying to do what Bhattacharjee also wants ' make them work. 'Since joining the company a fortnight ago, I was trying to bring about better work culture and discipline among the workers using my experience with DSP. But the workers were in no mood to listen and they taunted me for my efforts,' he said.

'I was inspired by Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's do-it-now slogan,' he added.

Two workers, said to be Citu supporters, were arrested last night.

The director of Rishabh Sponge Iron Pvt Ltd, Anil Jain, who lodged an FIR at Borjora police station on Sunday night, has written to the chief minister and industries minister Nirupam Sen seeking their intervention.

The secretary of Citu's Borjora unit, Tarun Raj, said the factory had workers owing allegiance to both the Trinamul Congress and the CPM labour wing. 'We have initiated an inquiry to find out who all were behind the assault,' he added.

Amiya Patra, the district CPM secretary who also oversees work for the industrialisation of Bankura ' a laggard district ' on behalf of the party, said he had sought a report from Raj. 'I have asked the local Citu unit to find out whether the accused actually belong to the Citu. We don't support the incident and want the guilty to be punished.'

Jain said there are about seven sponge iron factories in Bankura and their management are all having to cope with Citu's highhandedness. 'We are disgusted and plan to shift our units to Jharkhand. We will get plenty of coal and iron ore there. We will also get enough land.' He has sought an appointment with Jharkhand chief minister Arjun Munda on November 11.

Bankura superintendent of police Rajesh Singh said: 'We have arrested two of the accused. The rest will be arrested soon. I have asked the local police to keep a strict watch on the factory.'

In February 2004, Lok Sabha Speaker and CPM leader Somnath Chatterjee inaugurated the plant, which has 50 permanent employees and 70 on contract. It has the capacity to produce 200 tonnes of sponge iron everyday.

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