The alleged abduction of employees of cargo handler Haldia Bulk Terminals Pvt Ltd (HBT), at gun point, on Sunday has cast a shadow over resumption of operations at the mechanised berths at Haldia.

In a statement issued on Monday, Gurpreet Malhi, Chief Executive Officer of HBT, said, “We had wished to resume our operations in Haldia at the earliest, especially after we made the requisite advance payment for police protection. However yesterday’s events have shocked all at HBT. We are deeply concerned for the safety and well being of all our employees and hence are evaluating and deliberating on the available options.”

Sukesh Kumar Jain, Superintendent of Police of East Midnapore, told Business Line that investigations started on the alleged incident.

“The authority concerned should inquire into the matter. We want restoration of normalcy at the port immediately,” Manish Jain, Chairman of Kolkata Port Trust, said.

Meanwhile, employees of HBT on Monday protested outside the Haldia dock complex, demanding resumption of operations. According to sources, the agitating employees demanded “safety” and undisrupted work environment at the dock complex.

Criticising the incident, the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham) said the State Government should take strict action against those responsible for creating law and order problems at Haldia port.

“The West Bengal Government must maintain law and order,” D.S. Rawat, Secretary General of Assocham, said.

Political reaction

Meanwhile, the West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee (WBPCC) has sought Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s intervention into the ongoing impasse at Haldia port.

“The mysterious silence of the State Government is a matter for concern. The chief minister should immediately call a tripartite meeting among the Union Government, Ministry of Shipping and the State Government to sort out the turbulent situation at Haldia port,” senior Congress leader Manas Ranjan Bhunia said.

He pointed out that the stand-off would send a “negative” signal on industrialisation in the State.

“I will submit a report to Minister of Shipping G.K. Vasan and Prime Minister. I have already sent a note to the Prime Minister seeking his intervention,” Bhunia said.

Leader of the opposition in State Assembly and Polit Bureau member of the CPI(M), Surya Kanta Mishra, said some MPs of the ruling party were involved in the stalemate.

ayan.pramanik@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on October 29, 2012)
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