Mamata blames CITU and BMS; unions deny charge

The chief executive officer of a jute mill in Hooghly district of West Bengal died of injuries after being lynched allegedly by a group of workers on Sunday. Three persons were arrested later in connection with the incident.

H.K. Maheswari had held a meeting with the workers’ union earlier in the day to end a stalemate in the mill over the reduced number of working days, which meant lower pay for the workers. Soon after the meeting, a group of men, armed with iron rods and lathis, attacked Mr. Maheswari, severely injuring him. He died while being taken to a hospital in Kolkata.

The general manager and the chief security officer of the mill, who were also injured, have been shifted to hospital.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee alleged that the workers’ unions led by the Bharatiya Janata Party and the CPI(M) masterminded the attack.

Deny charge

Leaders of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions and the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh condemned the incident, and said the allegation was baseless.

The attack comes as a setback to the State government as it tries to get investment and restructure the economy.

The decision of the management of the North Brook jute mill in Bhadreswar to reduce the number of working days led to unrest in the factory, as in many other mills on the banks of the Hooghly. The factory which has been closed for several months prior to the election, opened only in April. However, the stalemate continued.

At Sunday’s meeting, while the workers demanded a five-day work schedule and full pay, the management was negotiating for a three-day week and reduced pay, said sources in the mill.

“Unions to blame”

Talking to a Bengali television channel, News Time, Ms. Banerjee said the entire incident — as reported to her by the district police — was the handiwork of the two unions.

“We do not have any union of the Trinamool Congress in the North Brook mill. Only a small unit of Sobhandeb Chatterjee [a trade unionist of the party] is located there, but it was not involved,” Ms. Banerjee said and added that “the CITU and the BMS lynched Mr. Maheswari when he stepped out of the factory to talk to them.”

Almost a decade and a half ago, two top managers were burnt to death at the Baranagar Jute Mill in North 24 Parganas district after an employee was shot down on the factory premises.