Workers lynch jute mill CEO; Mamata Banerjee blames CPI(M), BJP

Written by PTI | Chinsurah/Kolkata | Updated: Jun 16 2014, 03:04am hrs
Mamata BanerjeeMamata Banerjee blames CPI(M) and BJP for the unfortunate incident in which CEO of a jute mill was allegedly beaten to death by factory workers. (Reuters)
In a return of militant trade unionism in West Bengal, the CEO of a jute mill was beaten to death allegedly by workers on factory premises today, leading to political blame game with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee blaming BJP and CPI(M) for it, a charge rejected by both.

CEO of North Brook Jute Mill at Bhadreswar in Hooghly district neighbouring Kolkata H K Maheswari, around 60 years old, was badly beaten up by agitated factory workers when he rejected their demand for increase in weekly working hours so that they are paid more, Hooghly SP Sunil Chowdhury said.

"It was CPI(M) and BJP's men who had gathered there," the Chief Minister claimed while describing the incident as "very unfortunate".

Both BJP and CPI(M), however, denied their involvement and claimed that the incident went exposed the law and order situation in West Bengal amid fears expressed by industrialists that the incident had put a question mark on the survival of the ailing jute industry.

"There was a meeting scheduled there over some issues with the workers at 5.00 PM. But some CITU and BMS union members gathered within the mill premises in the morning itself and Maheswari came out of office to talk to them," Banerjee told a news channel.

"According to information that I have got, BMS and CITU members brutally beat up Maheswari. I have talked to the local police about it," she said.

Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) is affiliated to RSS, while Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) is the trade union wing of CPI(M).

Banerjee said she had asked police to take strong action against the culprits.

The SP said the workers met Maheswari at 11 AM and demanded that the weekly working hours be increased to 40 from the present 25 and also submitted a list of other demands.

The refusal of the CEO to meet the workers' demands led to an altercation and the workers assaulted Maheswari.

The CEO, who suffered serious injuries, died while being taken to hospital.

Asserting that her party's trade union body was not involved in the incident, Banerjee said, "We have no direct Trinamool Congress trade union there. Sobhandeb has a small unit there."

TMC MLA Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay is a former president of the party's trade union wing INTTUC. He was replaced by Dola Sen, who lost the recent Lok Sabha election to BJP's Babul Supriyo in Asansol.

The Chief Minister said, "It is very unfortunate that he was brutally beaten and died while being taken to hospital."

"I just want to know why is this violence to win elections Just a month back Lok Sabha elections were held. They have got the people's verdict," Banerjee said.

"They should try to garner support democratically. Why has Delhi suddenly started the game of taking over Bengal.

"It is not possible to win Bengal by violence and arson and murder. Bengal's soil is that of integration and brotherhood," she said.

"Those who are trying to do this by sending teams from Delhi, by even giving political colour to family disputes, I want to tell them clearly that enough is enough. I have tolerated enough. Our nicety should not be construed to be weakness," Banerjee said.

"We have tolerated enough. It is the duty of the government to douse any fire that has been ignited. BJP and CPI(M) goons who are indulging in violence after taking shelter under the BJP umbrella must not forget that they will not escape the law.

"BJP is indulging in dirty politics by joining hands with CPI(M)," the TMC supremo said.

"CPI(M) goons who engineered incidents like those in Nandigram, Choto Angaria, Netai, are thinking that BJP will save them. But they should understand that BJP has got nothing in Bengal," she said.

Rubbishing Banerjee's allegation that BJP was involved in the CEO's killing, the party accused the state government of failing to maintain law and order.

"Mamata Banerjee should stop making such statements. Otherwise people henceforth won't take her comments seriously. It is really hilarious to hear such allegations from the Chief Minister," West Bengal BJP General Secretary Shamik Bhattacharya said.

Bhattacharya accused Banerjee, who also holds the Home portfolio, of failing to maintain law and order, saying the incident of killing of an industrialist would dent the state's image.

"The Chief Minister, who is also Home Minister, should think about her own ministry before undertaking a reshuffle of her council of ministers as a whole as she has failed miserably to perform her duty," Bhattacharya said.

CITU state chief and CPI(M) leader Shyamal Chakarborty said, "It is a baseless allegation made by Mamata Banerjee. The CITU believes in constructive trade unionism. We don't believe in destructive trade unionism which is nowadays being pursued by trade unions close to the ruling party,"

"I don't want to name any particular trade union. But we condemn such violent acts and the guilty should be arrested and punished," he said.

Meanwhile, Indian Jute Mills Association (IJMA), an umbrella body of the mills, said the killing of the CEO has put a question mark on the future of jute industry in West Bengal.

Denouncing the killing, former IJMA president and industrialist Sanjay Kajaria said the "heinous" act made the survival of the ailing jute industry uncertain and accused the Centre and the state government of neglecting the sector.

"Jute sector needs a political solution. Both the Centre and the West Bengal government need to set differences aside and find out an amicable solution to prevent such incidents," Kajaria said, in the absence of Chairman Raghav Gupta, who is abroad.

Severe decrease in demand for jute products, which was mainly used for packaging, has led to the industry going into the red in general. Several jute mills have closed down, while many others are ailing.