Durgapur News Desk, 11 September 2017: Just as the festive season draws near, extortion in the name of puja subscription rules the industrial town of Durgapur. The incident on September 6 in which a truck driver was set on fire by some youths after he refused to pay them Rs 500 as Viswakarma puja subscription was not a stray one in the industrial town of Durgapur in West Burdwan.
Incidentally, September 6 was the day when the new Durgapur civic body took oath after capturing all the 43 municipal wards of the town; and Pradip Agasthy became the new mayor of Durgapur.
A section of truck drivers and transport contractors who carry consignments of spare parts and raw materials to various factories here have spoken about several such incidents they faced.
Local youths, suspected to be backed by the ruling party, regularly extort money from the transporters or truck drivers carrying consignments to different factories in the industrial town in the name of subscriptions for various occasions. However, no one dares to lodge complaints with the police.
On September 6, Niranjan Shaw, a truck driver coming out of Graphite India Ltd factory in Durgapur after delivering raw material, was stopped by five masked youths who demanded Rs 500 as Viswakarma puja subscription.
He was set on fire and seriously injured after he refused to pay and four other drivers were beaten up when they came to his rescue.
News report published in the largest selling English daily of Bengal, The Telegraph says that the daily collection from the trucks was not less than Rs 1 lakh per day.
The Telegraph went around in some industrial zones to check the reality on Thursday and Saturday.
At DSP (Durgapur Steel Plant) Tamla gate from where hundreds of trucks enter and exit the SAIL unit daily, it was found that a number of trucks were parked outside the gate and a group of youths operating from a makeshift shed, barely 100 metres from the plant gate, were collecting money from drivers in the name of ” parking fee cum local area development subscription”. The youths wrote down the trucks’ registration numbers against the amount paid in an exercise book. The amount ranges between Rs 150 and Rs 300 depending on the truck’s size. The rate for the trucks carrying Silico and Ferro manganese coming from other states is Rs 500.
At Raturia-Angadhpur industrial estate of Durgapur, where around 40 small and medium scale steel and iron factories are located, The Telegraph correspondent spotted one empty truck coming out of Shyam Steel Ltd factory. A youth sitting at the local tea stall went to the driver and took Rs 50.
After the truck left, when The Telegraph correspondent asked the youth why he took the money, he said that the money collected is used for maintaining the road network.
However, the road network in the industrial estate is maintained by the Asansol Durgapur Development Authority and Durgapur Municipal Corporation, which did not engage anybody to collect money for road maintenance.
The police, however, denied they had information on any extortion in the industrial areas. “When we came to know about one such incident we started a case and arrested four accused persons,” said Bimal Kumar Mandal, assistant commissioner of police (East).
Trinamul organising president in Durgapur, Uttam Mukherjee said no party workers were involved in any extortion.” The allegation of backing youths extorting money from truck drivers is baseless,” said Mukherjee.