Fishermen say the company is causing pollution

The stage is set for re-opening of Brandix India Apparel City (BIAC) – one of the largest apparel parks in the country – at Atchyutapuram near here with fishermen, who had laid siege to the entry gate, relenting a bit on Tuesday.

The development is termed a big breakthrough a day after Joint Collector M. Girija Shankar promised to consider training for girls in the neighbourhood with education up to eighth class to facilitate their employment in the apparel park and undertake various welfare measures under corporate social responsibility. However, the protesters said they would continue their dharna in front of the main gate.

The BIAC management conveyed to the Development Commissioner for Visakhapatnam Special Economic Zone and 100 per cent EoUs on Saturday that they were shutting down their operations due to forcible closure of the main gate by people belonging to three villages.

When contacted, a senior BIAC official told The Hindu that they were making arrangements and intimating the workforce to resume work at the earliest.

Bone of contention

Drastic fall in fish catch and capture of dead fish led to the agitation by people of Lovalapalem, Venkaiahpalem, and Gajareddypalem, who blamed the Brandix management for polluting the sea. They laid a siege to the Brandix gate saying they deserved a package like the one offered to fishermen of Pudimadaka as they lost their livelihood.

The BIAC had signed an agreement with the people of Pudimadaka sometime ago when they threatened to stall work on a pipeline. The apparel park later laid a pipeline through the village to discharge its “treated effluents” after promising jobs and cash compensation to the affected fishermen. The BIAC management stoutly denied the charge and showed disinclination to consider their demand for a package leading to the launch of an agitation by people of the three villages a month ago. Mr. Girija Shankar, during Monday's marathon discussion that lasted three hours, promised to set up an expert committee with representatives from the three villages to find out the genuineness in their apprehension that Brandix was responsible for dwindling fish catch. He also, in no uncertain terms, warned of serious action if they continued to stall the functioning of the BIAC, which envisaged an investment of $1.2 billion in the first five years of its operation. District general secretary of AP Fishers and Fisheries Workers' Union K. Appalaraju said the district administration and the BIAC should give them a written promise on providing jobs, taking up welfare activities, and setting up a committee with a time-frame for submitting its report.

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