Kanchan Siddiqui
[email protected] 
Durgapur, 4 October
The festive spirit may have spread across the region, the shopping malls, however, wear a deserted look in the Asansol – Durgapur industrial hub as most factory workers here still await their puja bonus. 
SAIL&’s Durgapur Steel Plant witnessed a clash between the Citu and Inttuc last Monday over  the Puja bonus offered by DSP which remained unaltered from last year’s figure of Rs 16880. The agitators claimed – the value had not factored in inflation.  “The workers cannot afford the goods on offer at swanky malls ,” complained Mr Probhat Chatterjee, district Inttuc president, alleging: “Citu is one of the leading Joint Consultative Committee bargainers but they probably urged the authorities to stick to last year&’s figure.” 
The district Citu secretary, Mr B K Chakraborty meanwhile rebuffed the Inttuc charges saying: “The Centre is responsible for price inflation and we are nobody either to support or oppose this vehemently as this might lead to withdrawal of ex-gratia.”
Although the SAIL plants have extended ex-gratia support to its 18,000 odd employees in its two plants here, thousands of workers absorbed by the cluster of secondary steel units, the IT units here have not  shown much promise.
This, according to Mr Ramaprasad Haldar, secretary, Durgapur Chamber of Commerce & Industries: “ The footfall at shopping plazas has dipped considerably this year.” 
Retail major Shopper&’s Stop, operating in ‘Junction’ – one of the  glitzy malls at City Centre here,  had roped in Tollywood actress Koneenica and a bunch of popular Kolkata models to  woo shoppers. The entire store was transformed into a buzzing fashion runway. “They  showcased branded western wear to  attract buyers,” lamented Mr Santanu Ghosh, Customer Care Associate, Shopper&’s Stop.  Mr Kamal Dutta, operator, Fortune mall in Benachitty market here confirmed that business had dropped “The crowd is barely 40 percent of last year&’s numbers.”