There was a time when the country watched in horror as militant trade unions in West Bengal shut down one company after another. What was once considered a crown jewel of investment in as much as it was touted – What Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow is now a shadow pale of its glorious past.
The ubiquitous red flag outside factory gates is something every kid has grown up in these two states, who have a lot in common – a heady mix of Football, Fish, Communism and Trade Unionism. Almost all of Kerala’s major industries, most of it in the private sector, have pulled down their shutters. Some like Mavoor Rayons had to shut shop because of the pollution issues that the effluents released from the factory. But most of the others went away because of the intransigent attitude of militant trade unions.
Anyone who started any enterprise, be it a small factory, a car repair workshop or a large industry in Kerala is looked down upon as a bourgeoisie, an exploiter who wants to make profit by making their workers work.
As was seen in the case of Sabu Jacob, Managing Director of KITEX, it was harassment of the worst kind by way of raids – 11 of them in a matter of a few weeks. From legal services society which turned up on the basis of an anonymous complaint from a person who is supposed to be an employee of KITEX. Then came the labour department, pollution control board and just about everyone – all came and went, but not one of them submitted any report pointing out the lapses, if any, that was found. The only notice that Mr Sabu got was for not paying minimum wages as per the act, which actually has been stayed by the high court.
As Mr Sabu pointed out, KITEX has been paying almost double than what was mandated under the act. Finally, an exasperated Sabu threw in the towel. He announced that KITEX was pulling out from the 3500 crore expansion project, for which KITEX had signed an MOU with the Govt of Kerala.
Just a couple of days later, news is coming in that the Tamil Nadu govt has stepped in and offered a mouthwatering deal to Sabu. From input subsidy to tax waivers, there was everything that KITEX could have asked for. The Tamil Nadu Govt said that it was willing to go the extra mile and sweeten the offerings. Reports also say that Karnataka and Telangana governments might also jump in to entice KITEX to set up their new units in their respective states.
The KITEX saga is perhaps the last nail in the coffin of Kerala as an investment destination. The state is now ranked at the 28th position as best states to invest in. Things can’t get worse from here, unless Tripura which is at the bottom of the heap, cleans up its act and moves up.