A major industrial group in Kerala on Tuesday announced withdrawal from a Rs 3,500 crore investment project, alleging harassment by state government officials. Kitex Garments Ltd said it has decided to withdraw from the project signed during the 'Ascend Global Investors Meet' organised by the state government in Kochi in January 2020.
In a statement, Sabu Jacob, chairman of Kitex group, said it was very difficult for him to run the existing industrial units in the state. He alleged that various units of Kitex were raided 10 times by officials from various departments during the past one month. Jacob alleged that officials, comprising 40-50 in numbers, entered the factory units, carried out searches, prevented workers including women employees from doing their job, grilled them and harassed them on various occasions. He claimed that the officials did not reveal the reasons for conducting such searches and what violations were committed by the company.
Noting that the Kitex factory has been functioning in Kochi for the past 26 years and it has over 10,000 employees, Jacob said that if such a â€świtch hunt is continuedâ€ť, the company will take a decision on whether to close it down or shift its units to other states. He alleged that the officials arrived with a huge team violating COVID-19 protocol, accompanied by camera teams of online media.
There was no immediate reaction from the state government to Jacob's allegations. However, Congress leader and Thrikkakara MLA PT Thomas said that the company had the habit of making such announcements when caught on the wrong foot.
MLA Thomas said during a press meet, "During the UDF rule between 2011 and 2016, then minister K Babu had convened two meetings in Ernakulam district collectorate, one on December 13, 2012 and February 27, 2013, to discuss the issue of Kadambrayar pollution. In both these meetings, Kitexâ€™s owner also participated. Then he had ensured that within six months he will implement a foolproof mechanism for waste management. But even then, the company owner played tactics saying that if he cannot run the company here, he will take it to Sri Lanka. It is after that that Oommen Chandy (the then Chief Minister) intervened and got Minister Babu to hold discussions. But till now, the promised mechanism for waste management has not been implemented.â€ť
Jacob has been at loggerheads with the state's ruling CPI(M) and opposition Congress after a party floated by him entered the electoral political arena and fielded candidates in eight seats in Ernakulam district for the Assembly polls held in April this year.
Twenty20, the industrial charity outfit-turned- political party, had scripted an impressive victory in the civic polls held in December last year in parts of Ernakulam district.
Watch: How Kizhakkambalam Twenty 20 assumed power in 4 Kerala panchayats
In 2015, Twenty20 contested the local body polls in the Kizhakkambalam panchayat near Kochi and created history by winning 17 of the 19 gram panchayat seats.
In the 2020 civic elections, Twenty20 not only retained Kizhakkambalam panchayat by an impressive margin, but also captured power in neighbouring panchayats of Aikkaranad, Kunnathunadu and Mazhuvannur.
Besides, it had also emerged as a major force in Vengola gram panchayat, winning several wards.
Twenty20, a brainchild of Jacob, had started as the development initiative of the Rs 12 billion Anna-Kitex Group founded by his father MC Jacob in 1968.
(With PTI inputs)