ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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WEST BENGAL-Workers Struggle to Revive Unit

Workers' Struggle to Revive Unit Biren Roy THE Indo Japan Steel Company was established in 1966 and was owned by the Agarwalas. The company has under its roof an electric earth-furnace, a hot rolling mill and cold rolling mill complex. The company is also well equipped with all the ancillaries and other infrastructure facilities with a dedicated and skilled workforce of 800, The company is perhaps unique in the private sector in eastern India in that steel making from ingot stage to cold rolling is done under a single roof. The factory is situated a lew kilometres north-west of Calcutta, that is, on the other side of the Ganges and near the famous Belur-Math. The company gradually became sick under the mismanagement of the owners and the case was referred to the BIFR which ordered that it be wound up on

Bankim Mukherjee

also cause long lasting environmental degradation in the neighbourhood. Northern Kerala is an acutely power- starved area where voltage drop as well as frequent power cuts are the order of the day. People are prepared to sacrifice anything for the sake of a steady supply of electricity. Feeling the pulse of the people, SKPL has come forward with a statement that they will generate 100 MW of power captively, out of which 80 MW will be utilised by the factory and 20 MW will be fed into the grid. In a state where unemployment has reached explosive proportions, any opportunity to mitigate it will be accepted wholeheartedly. Knowing this well, grossly exaggerated estimates of employment potential of the proposed plant are being flaunted by Vinod Thaparia, the director of the company. The public relations exercise he has undertaken is unique for its attempt to foreclose any anticipated opposition, by certain simplistic statements. For example, he has gone on record (see Chemical Weekly, February 11, 1997) saying that the petrochemical factory is a 'non-toxic' and 'zero-pollution' venture. Imagine the nerve of portraying an industry which is among the most hazardous 20 industries as such a harmless venture, "to allay the fears of the public", even before the deal has been finalised. Much more by way of statements such as these can be expected from companies of this type with huge allocation of funds for public relation and propaganda Now that an MoU has been signed and a 'green signal' has been received from the central government by way of a letter of intent, it calls for immediate public attention. One has to weigh the advantages on the economic and employment sectors against probable destruction of the environment through pollution and excessive water consumption. Pollution, of course, can be prevented to a limited extent; but only at the cost of profits, as funds will have to be diverted to state-of-the-art technologies to fight pollution. Can we reasonably expect a private company with a considerable equity participation by foreign firms to invest heavily on pollution control and monitoring, in a country where the rules are rather for the statute books than for implementation? TNCs coming to India with hazardous processes do not have a track record of conforming to stringent environmental standards in their host countries (the case of Bhopal is too vivid to forget).

LABOUR-Apathy over Minimum Wages

Apathy over Minimum Wages Biren Roy Minimum wages all over the country, including in Left Front-ruled West Bengal, are still far below the need-based minimum wage as per the norms laid down by the 15th Indian Labour Conference in 1957.

In Defence of Human Rights

Biren Roy The fact that certain human rights are enshrined in a formal document does not mean that the battle for a society free from all kinds of exploitation has been won.

Archana Guha s Fight for Justice

Biren Roy After 19 long years Archana Guka who barely survived police torture as a suspected naxalite has received 'justice' her torturer has been sentenced to a year's simple imprisonment! THE proverb goes, justice delayed is justice denied. But at least partial justice has been done in Archana Guha's case though justice was delayed for 19 long years. It may be recalled that Runu Guha Neogi, former deputy commissioner of police under West Bengal government, earned notoriety for his alleged torture of the naxalites in the early 1970s. Guha Neogi was responsible for torture of Archana Guha, one of the worst victims of torture in post-independence period. Archana Guha's case became well known not only in India but also at international fora.

WEST BENGAL-Left Front and the Police-Case of Bhikari Paswan

Left Front and the Police Case of Bhikari Paswan Biren Roy It has become customary for the Left Front government to defend every action of the state police, however brutal and indefensible, This is making it possible for the Congress, and the Youth Congress leader Mamata Banerjee in particular, to emerge as champions of human rights.

WEST BENGAL-Warning to Left Front

Warning to Left Front The CPI(M)'s attempt to take the offensive by organising a 'viclory rally' notwithstanding the results of the Calcutta civic election, like those of the earlier municipal elections throughout the state, have been a setback for the party.

WEST BENGAL-Human Rights Abuse Continues Unchecked

Human Rights Abuse Continues Unchecked Biren Roy The Left Front in West Bengal runs its government by compromising with the police, lest its stability is disturbed. Not surprisingly, the government's record of human rights violations is shameful.

Jute Mill-Owners Offensive against Workers

against Workers Biren Roy The 50-day strike of jute workers and the agreement signed at the instance of the West Bengal chief minister have failed to blunt the jute mill-owners' offensive against the workers which has been going on for some years.

LABOUR-Left Front Lukewarm to Workers

LABOUR Left Front Lukewarm to Workers' Co-operatives Biren Roy There are by now many examples of workers co-operatives succeeding in saving 'sick' industrial units from liquidation. There is no reason, therefore, why the Left Front government in West Bengal and the CITU should not extend a helping hand to the workers of Calcutta Chemical Company to salvage this Once-prosperous unit CALCUTTA CHEMICAL COMPANY, recently shifted to the south-eastern fringe of Calcutta, was established in 1916 by some Bengali entrepreneurers in the wake of the Swadeshi movement. It offered the first serious challenge to foreign soaps and tooth pastes. Its products, especially Margo soap and Neem toothpaste, have enough goodwill in the market The management of the company passed through different hands, ultimately to Shaw Wallace Company which was later on bought by NRI Chhabaria group in

CITU Fundamental Confusions

undiscriminating and unconditional support to the National Front umbrella. In other words the Left has to retain its freedom to withhold support to persons like Arun Nehru, Bansi Lal and their ilk. By the same token, if there be a Con- gress(I) personality with a record of democratic-secular-egalitarian positions, the Left should retain its right to stand by him.

CITU Challenges Ahead

Biren Roy A sustained workers' campaign is needed today to beat back the employers' offensive. Is the CITU up to the task? THE General Council of the CITU met in Kanpur from July 21 to 23, for the first time without the dominating presence of its founder president, B T Ranadive. In past years each meeting of the CITU bodies used to begin with a presidential address by B T Ranadive. This address would analyse the current international and national situation, the problems faced by the Indian working class in general and the CITU in particular. In short, the address used to set the tone of the meeting. The general secretary would then place his report in the context of presidential address. This year after the usual formalities and after paying glowing tributes to the departed leader, the session began with the report of its general secretary Samar Mukherjee, MP. The report was the main item of discussion at the meeting.

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