Haldia isnít just Singur redux, itís worse


The exit of ABG-LDA-led Haldia Bulk Terminals from West Bengal is yet another black spot on the state's investment record. What makes the episode even worse is all that led up to it ó corruption, nepotism and militant trade unionism, with the state government seen to be openly taking sides against the private firm concerned.

A company giving much-needed revenue to a port authority was virtually arm-twisted to yield before an age old family business group that has largely sustained itself on the backing of the ruling establishment. ABG-LDA found itself forced into a situation that was not just economically unviable but potentially dangerous.

It's hardly a coincidence that the same players who were in action when Tata Motors made an unceremonious exit from Singur were at work. And while the scale, magnitude and import may not be comparable, it only strengthens all the long-held apprehensions about West Bengal.

The Haldia episode also debunks Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's promise to provide an administration free from the diktats of the ruling establishment. The casualness with which the police handled the HBT abductions ó among those kidnapped was the one-year-old child of an official ó calls for an independent inquiry to fix responsibility. Even if a business house is seen to be hostile to the local government, should it be left to the mercy of those issuing death threats?

The future of Haldia is now bleak. As ships get diverted to other ports in the region, such as Paradip and Dhamara, this may be one time the whimsicalities of the Mamata regime's ways will hit the entire region. The setback is set to deprive not just West Bengal but neighbouring states and countries of a stable supply chain network.

However, the Trinamool Congress government doesn't seem to be losing any sleep. As local MP Suvendu Adhikari who, records show, questioned cargo being allotted to HBT, proudly declares: "I do not believe in starting. I believe in finishing."

... contd.

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