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Maoists milk Indian firms in Nepal

One of the less discussed aspects of the Nepal’s political transformation is the impact it has had on Indian joint venture companies operating here, reports Anirban Roy.

world Updated: Aug 15, 2007 03:14 IST
Anirban Roy

One of the less discussed aspects of the Nepal’s political transformation is the impact it has had on Indian joint venture companies operating here. They have been having a miserable time for the past year, for the Maoists, with the weight of state power now tacitly behind them, have targeted them consistently.

The Maoists have realised that Indian companies are both vulnerable and possess substantial cash reserves. The effort to milk these companies to the extent possible is on in full earnest.

“It is natural for Maoists to target the Indian companies as most of indigenously owned companies are doing very badly,” a senior executive of an Indian joint-venture firm, told the Hindustan Times on Tuesday.

The process of transforming themselves from an insurgent outfit to a legitimate, albeit left wing political party requires large funds. Unlike other political parties the Maoists have not been able so far to find regular and uninterrupted fund generating sources.

Besides the Maoists have always been “anti-India”. The first eight points of their 40-point charter of demands all relate to reducing Indian influence in Nepal.

The latest Indian victim of the Maoists is the ayurvedic giant Dabur, running the joint venture Dabur-Nepal, whose investment in Nepal is one of the largest among Indian companies. Dabur’s factory in Birgunj had to be closed down following pressure from Maoist unions.

The Maoists are aware that the Indian ayurvedic company has an annual turnover of Rs 300 crore and pays taxes of over Rs 25 crore every year.

This is the second time this year that the Indian ayurvedic giant is in crisis in Nepal. Established in 1989, it has always been under Maoist pressure, and its production unit at Birgunj was also locked up by the guerrillas in April last year.

A number of other Indian joint ventures have also been harassed. The Maoists have also targeted Indian-aided projects, and had threatened to blow up a high-secondary school at Khajuri in eastern Dhanusha, for which the Indian government had contributed Rs 2.04 crore.

The Manipal Medical College in Pokhara was also served with extortion notes last year.

“We are constantly in touch with the Nepal government to ensure that the Indian companies are not harassed,” a senior Indian diplomat, said.

Meanwhile, the members of Nepal Press Union on Tuesday staged a demonstration in front of Ministry of Information and Communications to protest against the high-handedness of the Maoist workers’ union.

The protest has been against the Maoist trade unions’ move to close down the printing press of two national dailies — The Himalayan Times and Annapurna Post — owned and promoted by Indians.

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