Even as the impasse continued over cargo handling at two berths in the Haldia Dock Complex (HDC), the private sector cargo handler, Haldia Bulk Terminals Pvt. Ltd (HBT), claimed that three of its officers and some of their family members were abducted in the early hours of Sunday.

They were later forced to flee at gunpoint and threatened with dire consequences if they ever set foot on Haldia again, HBT chief executive officer Gurpreet Malhi said in a statement.

“We have now received reports that our abducted employees are at a safe location in Kolkata,” he said.

‘Breakdown of law’

HBT, which has suspended cargo handling operations at Haldia for more than a month citing lawlessness, expressed shock “at the complete breakdown of law and order at Haldia”.

The company alleged that its offices and employees had been under threat since the retrenchment of 275 employees last month, resulting in the deadlock.

HBT handles two mechanised berths for dry bulk cargoes.

No help from police

“While the criminals were trying to force entry into their [the officers’] apartments, HBT’s managers made numerous calls to the police begging for protection. The required help never came,” Mr. Malhi said.

“HBT has even paid up Rs. 17,45,730 for deployment of police personnel towards restoration of a peaceful work environment so that it can resume its operations. But this incident illustrates that the Haldia police and the State administration are not ready to guarantee safety to HBT as a company,” Mr. Malhi said.

Industry shocked

The incident, which occurred hours before HBT was to resume its operations in the HDC, has sent shockwaves in industry circles even as there are apprehensions that it could affect prospects of fresh investments in West Bengal. .

It is “shocking” and would hurt the “minimum prospects of industrialisation,” said Shyamal Chakraborty, State president of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions. “Such an incident cannot happen without the active support of the State government,” he added.