.........PARADIP: Cargo operation was severely affected in Paradip Port on Thursday due to the agitation by drivers and helpers over their demands.
Thousands of drivers and helpers, engaged in cargo handling at the port, are up in arms over pathetic condition during working hours. Despite slogging for 12 to 16 hours per day in cargo operation, they have been denied basic facilities.
Moreover, while the dumper owners’ association is allegedly deducting a hefty amount from their remuneration every month towards ESI and EPF, the same is not being deposited. It is alleged that the association has siphoned off the funds.
On August 8, a dumper driver, Babuli Nayak of Kantial village within Niali police limits, was engaged in loading of cargo in a berth of Paradip Port. Coal from a vessel was being loaded into the dumper. However, the crane driver failed to load the coal in the basket of the dumper and instead hit the cabin of the vehicle following which Nayak was seriously injured and shifted to Atharbanki hospital in critical condition.
Following the incident, tension prevailed in the port area as irate drivers and helpers staged demonstration demanding their safety and protection. They alleged that many transporting and stevedoring agencies are loading and unloading cargo without proper light arrangement. As a result, the crane drivers are not able to locate the basket of dumpers, thereby leading to accidents.
After the mishap, the dumper owners’ association had assured the drivers and helpers to fulfil their demands by August 15. But, nothing has been done in this regard following which the aggrieved drivers and helpers decided to protest on Wednesday night.
Leaders of drivers and helpers’ Association Jagabandhu Behera and Bhagaban Biswal said their demands include 8-hour work, provision of one helper in each dumper, a deposit of their ESI and EPF money, provision of national holidays, safety and security measures, bonus, minimum wages and payment of their remuneration through banks.
Due to the stir, cargo operation from seven vessels in the port has been affected, they added.
A senior official of Traffic department of Paradip Port Trust admitted that cargo operation was affected due to the agitation. However, the drivers and helpers called off their stir on Thursday evening after getting assurance from dumper owners’ association, he added.