Miles away, the blindspot that govt refuses to look


Retrenched Haldia dock workers live in abject penury.

Barely five kilometres from Haldia helipad ground where the state government has spent Rs 3 crore to hold Bengal Leads, an industrial summit, about 350 people, who recently lost their jobs following the exit of ABG's cargo-handling firm from Haldia, took out a protest march a sad reminder of a bitter squabble between the government and industry.

ABG wound up its operations complaining militant trade unionism and law and order problems. So, even as Industry Minister Partha Chatterjee and a host of government officials wooed industry captains to choose Bengal for investments, the 350-odd people protested. But they faced police batons and were bundled in police vans. Seventeen arrested have been charged for attempt to murder and rioting.

Five-year-old Sania Perveen, daughter of Sufiar Rahman Khan of Dhekua in Haldia, has not been going to her school, Palligiti Pathagar, for the last one month. Her father has not been able to pay the school fees. Rahman, who earlier worked with ABG's cargo-handling agency, is now living in penury.

"Industrialists have come at the summit and the government is showcasing what it is doing for them. How could they forget about us? I sold my goat to make both ends meet. Now, I am left with no money. I stopped my daughter from going to school. My grocer is no longer giving me provisions on credit. I don't know what is in store for me,'' the 30-year-old said with frustration and anger writ large on his face.

Echoed, Shaikh Mohammad Ali, a resident of Deghashipur in Haldia who has five daughters. "We are starving and that too for no fault of ours. We are skilled labourers but I am pulling van rickshaws, selling vegetables in the market to earn something.But how long can this go. We are not getting jobs anywhere.''

... contd.

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