The workers of the Commonwealth Trust (Comtrust) Weaving Factory will be taking their grievances against the delay in taking over of the factory by the State government to Cliff House in the State capital.
On Monday, the workers, all 107 of them, have decided to march to the Chief Minister’s official residence on October 25 as part of their second round of agitation, which began on October 1. The takeover of the iconic factory continues to be in limbo for the past one year.
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.
“We are anxious about the fate of the Bill. Even though an ordinance is in force for the State’s takeover of the factory, 1.23 acres of land and building have been sold to a private party,” E.C. Satheesan, general secretary of the workers’ union, said in a statement.
The Bill was passed following years of agitations led by this small group of workers since they were locked out on February 1, 2009.
“Despite the passing of a year, the Centre continued referring the Bill back to the State, which in a way helps the land mafia that includes members of major trade unions,” P. Shivaprakash, Joint Convenor, Comtrust Weaving Factory Workers Action Committee, said.
The Comtrust factory, started 169 years ago by the German Basel Evangelical Missionaries, is a heritage asset.
While there were 284 workers when the factory ceased operations, only 107 of them had stayed back to fight. The rest had accepted the company management’s Voluntary Separation Scheme and compensation.
The few who remained had financed their protests by working on construction sites, painting, and other fringe jobs while braving personal losses.
Meanwhile, the land occupied by the factory shrunk to a few cents.
The factory land had recently been 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 the 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 due to provident fund payments.
Workers are protesting against the delay in the takeover of the factory by the government.