Britannia closing iconic unit sparks concern of ‘flight of industry’ from West Bengal

In an intimation to the stock exchanges on June 20, the company informed that all permanent workers of the Taratala factory had accepted the voluntary retirement scheme

Published - June 26, 2024 03:37 am IST - Kolkata

Britannia Industries Limited announces the closure of its historic factory, in Taratala neighbourhood, Kolkata on June 24, 2024.

Britannia Industries Limited announces the closure of its historic factory, in Taratala neighbourhood, Kolkata on June 24, 2024. | Photo Credit: ANI

With FMCG major Britannia Industries Limited notifying the stock exchanges that all permanent workers at its Taratala factory in Kolkata have accepted voluntary retirement, a fresh row has erupted over the flight of industry from West Bengal.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leadership described the development as “shutdown of Britannia Industries’ factory” even though the company said there would be no material impact on the business operations of Britannia Industries.

“The Britannia factory, once a beacon of industrial vitality in Bengal, suffered significant attrition during the Left regime due to the CPI(M)’s pervasive ‘Unionbaji’. TMC’s relentless ‘Tolabaji’ was the final nail in the coffin, which ultimately led to the demise of the factory,” BJP IT cell chief Amit Malviya said.

Mr. Malviya, the BJP’s co-incharge of West Bengal, said the State is already mired in “severe unemployment exacerbated by the TMC’s extortion and syndicate, now faces an even more dire predicament with the factory’s closure, triggering massive layoffs”.

In an intimation to the stock exchanges on June 20, the company informed that all permanent workers of the Taratala factory had accepted the voluntary retirement scheme. According to sources, there were about 122 permanent workers.

“The production at the plant has been suspended for about two weeks, this resulted in the workers accepting the terms of the VRS. Now the management is in talks with the contractual workers,” Gautam Roy, a leader with Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), the labour arm of Communist Party of India (Marxist), said.

The development has triggered strong reactions because Britannia has been one of major brands operating out of the State and the factory at Taratala has been an iconic landmark in Kolkata.

Questions have also been raised about the fate of the land of Taratala factory located on 11 acres belonging to Kolkata Port. Mr. Roy said the land was on lease agreement renewed in 2018 for 30 years, extending to 2048.

Political analyst Kanchan Gupta took to social media and said that it is “strange feeling to learn that Britannia has shut its machines and switched off its lights at its sprawling factory in Kolkata”.

“I guess this was inevitable. In its mandatory filing at the NSE, Britannia has said employees have accepted a ‘voluntary retirement scheme’ and that shutting of the factory “would not have any material impact on the business operations of the company”. It means Britannia will maintain its earnings minus its operations in Calcutta,” he posted on X.

Local Trinamool councillor Anwar Khan said Britannia shutting down its unit is a business decision and has nothing to do with the industrial climate of the State. “The company has already set up a unit in Dankuni,” he said.

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