Protest against delay in takeover by government
Workers of Commonwealth Trust (Comtrust) Weaving Factory on Thursday announced that they would launch the second round of agitation in protest against the delay in takeover of the factory by the State government. The State Legislative Assembly had unanimously passed the Bill allowing the takeover on July 25, 2012 and the Governor had consequently referred the Bill to the Union Home Ministry for the President’s approval a month later on August 16. But a year since, nothing has moved.
“The Centre kept referring the Bill back to the State, which in a way helped the land mafia that includes members of major trade unions,” P. Shivaprakash, joint convener, Comtrust Weaving Factory Workers Action Committee, said in an official statement.
The Bill itself had been the outcome of a series of agitations led by this small group of workers since the factory closed down on February 1, 2009.
The Comtrust factory, started 175 years ago by the Basel missionaries, is considered a heritage asset. It had exported high-quality clothing material, with the British Queen being one of its esteemed customers.
While there were 300 workers when the factory ceased operations, only 108 of them had stayed back to fight. The rest had chosen to move on after accepting the company management’s Voluntary Separation Scheme and compensation.
The few who remained had financed their protests by working at construction sites, painting and other fringe jobs while braving personal losses.
Meanwhile, the land occupied by the factory had shrunk to a few cents.
The factory land had recently been at the centre of controversy after a co-operative bank started recovery proceedings against the Kozhikode District Cooperative Travel and Tourism Development Society, which owned 45 cents of factory real estate located near the prime Mananchira Square premises. The bank’s move came after the cooperative society failed to repay a loan.
The Comtrust management had sold the land to the society during the tenure of the Left government to tide over the crisis caused due to provident fund payments.