For the workers of Dunlop tyre plant at Sahagunj, the 2006 and the 2011 assembly polls are in sharp contrast.
In 2006, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had inaugurated the reopening of the once-glorious plant and claimed it as a success of the government. He promised that the workers would, henceforth, not have to worry about the future. Cut to the present and in 2011, Bhattacharjee is nowhere near to be seen.
Instead, with the gradual demise of the plant, it was the turn of Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee to choose the factory entrance on GT road as the venue of her campaign rally for Saptagram assembly constituency.
The disappointment over Bhattacharjee’s industrialisation drive is so much among the Dunlop workers that, in 2010 civic polls, Sunil Malakar, a Save-Dunlop Citizen’s Committee leader who was terminated by the management on disciplinary grounds, defeated the incumbent civic chairman of Hooghly-Chinsurah municipality by a big margin.
“No one buys the CPI(M)’s promises of bringing industries. We have seen them for years and now it is time to see if Banerjee manages to do something,” said Chandra Prakash Yadav, who settled in Sahagunj from Bihar about a decade ago and is now a voter of the Saptagram constituency.
But the sentiments over Dunlop are just the tip of the iceberg! The entire jute industr, with eight mills in Hooghly, is sick and the state government seems helpless in finding any remedy for it, earning criticism from all trade unions, except CPI(M)’s workers’ wing, Citu.
From Tribeni in north to Hind Motor in south, by the bank of Hooghly and sprawled over six Assembly constituencies—Saptagram, Chinsurah, Chandernagore, Champdani, Serampore and Uttarpara—exists the Hooghly industrial belt, now seeking oxygen.
Two fertiliser units, one food processing unit, two cotton mills, one steel plant and many other small and medium scale units have closed down over the years. Banerjee’s Railways on the other hand, has taken over closed Braithwaite plant and promises to revive its glory. “The government is blind to workers and depriving them has become a norm in the jute industry,” said Harish Mishra, a worker in a mill.
In the 2009 general elections, the Opposition had leads over the Left in all six Assembly seats. In 2010 civic polls, the Trinamool won all the 10 civic bodies in this belt— Dankuni, Uttarpara, Konnagar, Rishra, Serampore, Champdani, Seorafuly-Baidyabati, Bhadreshwar, Chandernagore, Chinsurah.
‘Nothing special for the industry workers have happened since then to change the voting pattern in favour of the Left,” said Abir Banerjee, an employee of closed Kusum Food Products at Rishra. Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s drive for industrialisation across the state, hence, may find very few takers.