Chinese workers at Jharkhand steel plant run into local fury

Written by Arindam Sinha | Jamshedpur | Updated: May 15 2009, 05:13am hrs
The police rushed forces to a steel plant site near Bokaro on Tuesday after violent clashes between Chinese and local workers. The Bokaro administration has posted two platoons of policemen and a deputy superintendent of police (DSP) to ensure things are under control at the Electrosteel Casting Ltd (ECL) plant at Sialjori, 35 km from Bokaro, where around 630 Chinese workers are working alongside 1,200 local workers to set up ECLs 3 million tonne per annum plant.

In March, 600-odd workers of a Chinese firm, MS Ltd, began arriving in groups to start work on ECLs steel plant. Meanwhile, work stopped at the plant site on Wednesday after four people including its Chinese plant supervisor Su Su Chiang were injured in the clash.

The Chinese firm bagged the turnkey contract after participating in a global tender floated by ECL and is to complete the job in 18 months. MS Ltd commenced work on the project a-month-and-half ago. Sources also said the villagers have been unhappy with the presence of the Chinese workforce and wanted them to go back.

The situation is normal; we have deployed two platoons, that is, around 50 police personnel at the site and have posted a communications inspector as well as a DSP to monitor the situation, said Laxman P Singh, the Bokaro superintendent of police, speaking to FE on Wednesday.

Both ECL and the villagers filed FIRs against each other on Wednesday. While the villagers have alleged that they were dragged from their homes and beaten up by members of the Chinese workforce, ECL too alleged that the local people beat up the Chinese without provocation.

Reports said the Chinese had sent an SOS to the embassy in Delhi. Our questionnaire to the embassy went unanswered.

Sources quoting ECL DGM (administration) CL Pandey said though no written agreement has been worked out, the two sides have verbally agreed to maintain peace and resume work from Thursday.

Tension at the site started on Tuesday when five locals who had absented continuously for a few days were denied job by MS Ltd officials who replaced them. Violence broke out over this dispute.

Top industry officials said many Chinese companies bagging turnkey projects in India were, unlike Indian companies working in China, put among their terms and conditions a clause that allows them to bring their own workforce, along with equipment, to complete the job within the deadline.

Asked if bringing their own workforce was cheaper for the Chinese companies in executing turnkey projects, a senior industry

official on condition of anonymity, said, No.Being turnkey projects, they dont want to waste time on selecting locals for the different jobs involved, train them etc.

He added, I dont think Indian companies engaged in turnkey projects in China are ferrying as many company personnel to China as the Chinese are doing.