Refuting Kitex Group chairman Sabu Jacob’s allegations that the State government was harassing the company through frequent inspections, Industries Minister P. Rajeeve said that the government never took initiative to conduct such checks. It only carried out checks in response to complaints from various quarters regarding the company’s functioning, which the government was bound to do.
Speaking at a press conference here on Monday, Mr. Rajeeve said that the government had taken extra effort to reach out to the company and address its concerns, yet serious allegations of the governement being investment-unfriendly are being levelled.
Mr. Rajeeve laid out the entire timeline of checks carried out at the company. The first check was carried out in February this year by the Kunnathunad tehasildar and the regional labour commissioner based on a directive from the National Human Rights Commission to the District Collector, regarding a complaint filed by Congress MP Benny Behanan.
On June 1, Congress MLA P.T. Thomas had raised allegations of pollution against the company in the Assembly. He had said that the company had not implemented a liquid discharge system, due to which chemical effluents were ending up in the Kadambrayar River, the water source for lakhs of people. Checks were carried out based on this allegation too.
The District Legal Services Authority carried out checks on May 29, following a High Court directive based on a woman's complaint that the management was harassing employees. The Health Department as well as the Labour Department carried out checks based on similar complaints during this period.
The Labour Department carried out another check following complaints regarding wages. The department’s report mentions testimonies from some employees that minimum wages were not being paid. The Factories and Boilers Department carried out checks based on media reports of migrant workers being made to stay in unhygienic conditions in sheds.
“It is clear from this entire timeline that the State government did not initiate any check on its own. The company management has not officially communicated any complaint regarding these checks to the Industries Department, nor did they raise any objection at the time of the checks. The allegations raised by Kitex in this regard are baseless. As per the latest India Innovation Index published by Niti Aayog, Kerala is in second place. Over the past few years, the government has taken several steps to bring in an investment-friendly climate. It is laughable to suggest that Kerala should follow the UP model,” said Mr. Rajeeve.
He said that he had reached out to the Mr. Jacob on June 28, when the issue was first raised on social media. Since he was not available, the Minister spoke to his brother, with whom he had a cordial discussion.
The Minister tried to contact Mr. Jacob again the next day when the company announced that it was shelving its ₹3,500- crore project envisaged in the State. He said that after the Letter of Intent was signed at the Ascent Conference in January, the Industries Department had reached out to him multiple times regarding the project.
Action was taken to address the demands raised by the company too. However, the company did not respond. The Minister also refuted Mr. Jacob’s allegations that none of the projects announced at Ascent had taken off, listing out the projects that were in different stages of completion.