Why the Jackfruit Tree Had Everything & Nothing to Do With the CEO’s Murder

The evil that men do lives after them
The good is oft interred with their bones.

Shakespeare could not ring truer than in the labour colony – called the ‘Coolie Lines’ – of the Northbrook Jute Mill here in Champdani in West Bengal’s Hooghly district, almost 35km from Kolkata. Days after a section of them bludgeoned their burra-sahib (the big boss) to death, the workers betray no signs of grief or repentance, recounting with zeal why Hare Krishna Maheshwari, the chief executive officer of the jute mill, “deserved” his fate.

On June 15, Maheshwari was beaten to death, allegedly by angry factory workers agitating against a move to bring down the number of working hours (on which their wages depend) in order to scale down production. The incident, described as the most gruesome in recent times, has sparked off fears of a return of militant trade unionism in a state with a history of industries winding up owing to violent labour politics.

One only has to speak to the workers and their family members to understand the atmosphere of simmering hatred that Maheshwari worked in and the fragile management-labour relations following the deepening crisis in the jute sector, as true elsewhere as at Northbrook.

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