Who ruined Bengal’s industrial legacy?

AM Jigeesh Hooghly (West Bengal) | Updated on January 20, 2018


While TMC and Left blame each other, workers rue the grim situation in the State

While the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the Opposition CPI(M) blame each other for the pathetic situation of industries in West Bengal, workers of shutdown factories in Hooghly district, which houses Singur, hope that at least in this election people will elect a government that will consider their plight and take some remedial measures.

Two big factories — Dunlop India Ltd’s Sahaganj plant and Hindustan Motors Ltd’s Uttarpara plant — have been shut down, rendering hundreds of workers in the region jobless. Additionally, many traditional industries in the area — such as jute factories — have also been shut down, making life difficult for the workers.

Workers and employers say that the problem of closing factories started in the mid-1990s. In Chandan Nagar subdivision itself, eight big jute mills have shut operations.

“The situation is very grim. Mills are frequently closed down. The cost of raw jute has increased and the middlemen are making gains, not farmers. Both for us and for the workers, the situation is pathetic,” said an employer, who wished to remain anonymous.

He added that there is pressure on the factories to begin operations before April 30, the fifth phase of the polls.

Thousands of workers who lost their jobs are now waiting for the assistance of ₹1,500 each from the government for sustenance. “We were active in the Singur agitation. But the TMC government did nothing for us. We may have to start a similar agitation to open the eyes of the government,” said Avash Munshi, a retrenched employee from Hindustan Motors.

Munshi is now fighting for the rights of workers and his family runs on a meagre income from the private tuitions his wife takes for children in the neighbourhood. “I lost my job in 2008. The situation is very bad,” he added.

TMC’s trade union leader in the district Bidyut Raout said 22,000 workers were part of Hindustan Motors in the best of times.

“Dunlop used to have 7,000 workers. The Left Front destroyed the work culture of the State. Under Mamata Banerjee’s regime, the industry is being revived,” he claimed.

Difficult state

The Left Front, however, doesn’t think so. “Workers are unhappy with the TMC government. Of course, the number of workers had come down in these factories, but it was never allowed to shut down during the LF government. Now, she (Mamata) allowed the management to shut the factories. Workers are in a difficult state,” said Santasri Chatterjee, former MP and CITU leader.

The TMC government took over the Dunlop factory, but the workers say that they are yet to get any compensation. “Our dues including PF and gratuity for many years are yet to be cleared,” a worker said. More than 3,000 labour cases are pending in various labour courts in the district.

Published on April 22, 2016

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