Logistics

Cargo handler’s woes at Haldia mirror Singur imbroglio

Pratim Ranjan Bose Kolkata | Updated on November 17, 2017 Published on October 29, 2012

The developments pertaining to the functioning of a private cargo handler, arguably a money-spinner for the Kolkata Port Trust, over the last one month reminds one of the unfortunate exit of Tata Motors’ small car project from Singur.

Apart from the economic significance of the projects to the State or industries of the State, what particularly makes the two episodes comparable is the manner in which the investors were dealt with by the political class.

Just like Tata Motors, which announced the Nano project on the day the Buddhadeb Bhattacharya-Government assumed charge in 2006 for the second term, ABG also expressed its commitment in mechanising dry bulk cargo handling at Haldia port in 2007 — at the peak of Bengal’s dramatic resurgence as an investment destination.

History repeats itself

It is common knowledge that the ‘feel-good’ sentiment about the State didn’t last long. And, in 2009, when ABG finally secured the contract — in partnership with LDA (Louis Dreyfus Armateurs) of France — from KoPT, Bengal had already proved to be Tata Motors’ nightmare.

The auto major was forced to relocate a near-ready Nano facility out of Singur in October 2008 in the face of sustained criticism by a popular movement led by Trinamool Congress.

The company later elaborated to the Court how a State Government — that invited the company to set foot in Singur — failed to ensure law and order.

The allegations once levelled by Tata Motors are now revisited in a series of statements issued by Haldia Bulk Terminals Pvt Ltd (the special purpose vehicle of the ABG-LDA combine), beginning September 28.

Blame game

What started with injuring HBT’s workers in September 28 right at the dock complex allegedly ended in booting out of Haldia some HBT officials and their families, at gun point, on Sunday (October 28). Officially, ABG has yet to blame any particular political party or trade union for the fiasco. But, the chronology of events suggests that the company has crossed the path of the ruling Trinamool Congress.

Before the police could take any action on alleged ‘abduction’ of ABG officials on Sunday, the local ruling party MP, Suvendu Adhikari, was quick to blame the company for ‘fabricating’ stories and blackmailing (the State Government).

Adhikari’s views are apparently in line with those of his party chief and Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee.

“I saw that operations are on at the Haldia Port. Some people, including media persons, are taking a one-sided stand. They are blackmailing the Government,” Banerjee said on October 9 without directly referring to HBT.

Court intervenes

It is a different matter that the Calcutta High Court, in its interim order on October 19, was not convinced with the arguments of the State Government that the situation prevailing at the dock complex is ‘normal’ and picked holes in the intent shown by police in addressing law and order issues, as raised by ABG.

“The industry must be saved..,” the court said. The question is: Shouldn’t it find a taker in the State leadership?

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Published on October 29, 2012
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