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Maoists shutdown ITC factory

business Updated: Jan 28, 2008 23:24 IST
Anirban Roy
Anirban Roy
Hindustan Times
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India’s tobacco giant ITC is now gasping for breath in Nepal as the Maoist-backed trade union has shut down the tobacco factory of its joint venture — Surya Nepal — at Simrah in south Nepal.

The tobacco factory in Simrah in the southern frontier district of Bara has remained closed during the last few days with the trade union making a strong push with the company’s management to meet their 15-point demand of the Maoists. The ITC unit has more than 350 workers.

“We want the management to immediately decide on our demands,” a member of the Maoist trade union told the Hindustan Times over telephone from Simrah, adding that the trade union would continue with the agitation.

In fact, ITC’s Surya Nepal is the largest foreign direct investment (FDI) in Nepal and the Indian tobacco giant holds 59

percent shares in the joint venture.

The management of Surya Nepal is trying to resolve the crisis. “We are hopeful that the workers would soon resume work,” said Harsh Madhav Dar, Managing Director of the company, adding that the process of negotiation is also open.

The management is believed to be hesitant to effect a hike in the salaries of the workers as they were given an increment in November last year, after a 72-hour shutdown of its production unit.

Despite the fact that Surya Nepal is the largest taxpayer in Nepal, the Maoists have been constantly targeting the ITC production unit.

The cadres of the ultra-left insurgent outfit have always been trying to fleece the company.

In the process of diversification, Surya Nepal now has a huge garment factory in Biratnagar town in eastern Nepal.

The two garment brands — John Player and Springwood — are very popular in Nepal.Moreover, a large portion of the garments produced at the unit is also being exported to different countries.

In addition to Surya Nepal, the Maoist insurgents have also been targeting other Indian joint ventures, including Dabur, Pepsi and the Manipal Medical College at Pokhara in Nepal.