There was a feeling of déjà vu when private cargo handler ABG-LDA, an Indo-French JV, announced that it was pulling out of Haldia port, citing unsafe conditions and lack of protection for workers by the Mamata Banerjee government. Four years ago, in 2008, in a similarly acrimonious situation and amid a deteriorating security environment, the Tatas too pulled out of the state (with their small car project from Singur). The Mamata Banerjee government was not in power then, but Banerjee had led the protest against the Tatas and refused to acknowledge the shattering impact on industry it would have. In 2012, with Banerjee at the helm, it hasn’t been easy going for industry, to say the least. Her intransigent land policy, where the government won’t help industry in getting land for big projects, must have put off many potential investors.
The government’s handling of the Haldia port issue is likely to shock all investors away from the state. The law of the land hasn’t been upheld, the protection that the ABG-LDA workers sought never came. Mamata Banerjee’s telling statement that “nothing happened” in Haldia just pointed at the deeper political malaise that Mamata’s parivartan hasn’t been able to change. Haldia had enough problems of its own but the situation reached a new low, with lawlessness becoming the norm and the police brazenly looking away. Even days after the ABG-LDA staff alleged abduction of three of its workers, the state government is in denial mode and no arrests have been made. In