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HindustanTimes Sat,27 Dec 2014

Mumbai-based port operator quits Bengal

HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times  Kolkata, October 31, 2012
First Published: 14:02 IST(31/10/2012) | Last Updated: 02:02 IST(1/11/2012)

Haldia Bulk Terminals (HBT), the ABG–LDA joint venture operator that earn the highest revenue for Bengal's struggling port, Haldia dock complex, has announced that it is quitting West Bengal as the law and order situation is not conducive for normal business in the state.

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The company communicated its decision to both Kolkata Port Trust and the Calcutta high court on Wednesday. Just a couple of days ago three officials of the operator were forced out of Haldia, a port town about 100 kms to the south of Kolkata, at gun point. HBT officials allege multiple calls to the local police station and district police bosses elicited no help.

HBT's decision comes four years after Tata Motors quit Singur blaming the Trinamool Congress, then the opposition party, for creating law and order problems at the factory site about 50 km to the north of Kolkata.

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The Mumbai-based operator had shut operations at both its terminals in the Haldia Dock systems since the fourth week of September.

“With a deep sense of disappointment we’ll have to inform you that we haven been with no option but to walk out from Haldia dock complex with immediate effect, Gurpreet Malhi, CEO of HBT said in a media statement.

“We cannot work in an environment where the authorities responsible for ensuring the law and order and success of the project have openly renounced an abundant their responsibility,” Malhi said. He stressed that the safety and security of their employed was above their business interest.

While the Congress, CPI(M) and BJP have condemned the attitude of the state government and administrative inaction leading to the exit of the operator, chief minister Mamata Banerjee claimed on Tuesday everything was normal at the port and the allegations of violence were media concoctions to malign her government.

Incidentally, HBT's operations were harming the interests of a stevedore company owned by a Trinamool Congress Rajya Sabha MP.

The HBT, which started operation in 2010 at births 2 and 8 of HDC in 2010, played a key role in pulling out HDC from a deep financial crisis in which the KoPT had recorded a loss of revenue of rupees 316 crores between 2007 and 2010. HBT had helped increase the productivity by more than three fold and the revenue by more than seven times than in non-mechanized birth.

Trinamool backed workers of private handling agencies obstructed the HBT operations from September 15, alleging that Kolkata Port Trust's priority to HBT will harm the business interest of their private employer. HBT suspended operations on September 22 blaming law and order situation. Next day they sacked 275 employees blaming heavy losses.

Even though the Calcutta high court, on October 19, asked the district administration of East Midnapur district to ensure law and order, the situation only became worse. It reached its worst on the night of October 27 when all three of HBT’s managerial stuffs at Haldia were abducted and sent to Kolkata, with the threat of facing dire consequences should they try to return to Haldia.

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