Kerala Industries Minister P Rajeev has said that neither the state government nor any of its departments on their own had initiated any enquiry into or inspection of Kitex Garments Ltd, which had announced withdrawing from the Rs 3,500 crore investment project, alleging harassment. All inspections, he said on July 5, were a result of various complaints to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Kerala High Court and other authorities against the company. The minister said that when various departments and authorities were carrying out inspections of the company, based on directions of the NHRC and the Kerala High Court, as well as complaints by individuals, including an MLA, Kitex never raised any objections against the same at any point of time.
However, the company went on to level grave charges against the government's ease of doing business model and announced that it would withdraw its investment from a Rs 3,500 project, he said. Rajeev said that despite not agreeing with the method adopted or the manner in which the company aired its grievances on social media, embarrassing the state, the government's approach towards Kitex has been positive. He said that the government had no option but to inquire into the complaints against the company.
Giving details of the complaints, the minister said one was made to NHRC by Congress MLA Benny Behanan, who had alleged that there were no proper arrangements in the industrial unit for housing the workers, based on which the commission had sought a report from the District Collector of the area concerned. Another complaint was made in the Assembly by Congress MLA PT Thomas, alleging that no zero liquid discharge system has been installed in the company's unit at Kadambrayar as per the directions of the National Green Tribunal and that it was discharging effluents into nearby water bodies, affecting the lives and livelihoods of people residing there and in adjoining areas, the minister said and added that when a legislator raises a concern, it has to be looked into.
Yet another complaint was made by a woman to the Kerala High Court, alleging non-adherence of COVID-19 norms and misbehaviour with female employees by the company management.The court had directed the state legal services authority to look into the same, he said and added that since a similar complaint was made to the Health Department, it too, had to inquire into it. "What is clear from all this is that neither the state government nor any of its departments voluntarily or on its own initiated any inquiry or inspection of the company's activities," Rajeev said. He said Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan held a high-level meeting, comprising ministers of various departments, as well as senior officials, to examine the facts and they found no reason which warranted the kind of reaction which Kitex displayed as it carried out a major social media campaign "to defame the state and the government."
He also said that Kitex comparing Kerala with Uttar Pradesh in respect of ease of doing business was 'a joke', as even Niti Aayog, in its report, has said that the southern state has a business friendly atmosphere. A couple of days ago, Rajeev had said that the issues raised by the company were being considered seriously and positive steps would be taken to resolve the same. He had also said that the Kerala government does not have a policy of carrying out "surprise or lightning" raids on industries and such action is only taken if there are complaints of a grave nature against any such entity. The statement had come after Kitex,which claims to be the second largest producer of children's apparel in the world, had claimed it had received offers from other states, including Tamil Nadu, to take its business there. Kitex had announced withdrawal from the project in the state, alleging harassment by government officials. It had said it has decided to withdraw from the project signed during the â€˜Ascend Global Investors Meetâ€™ organised by the state government in Kochi in January 2020.
The company's chairman Sabu Jacob had earlier said it was difficult for him to run the existing industrial units in the state and had alleged that various units of Kitex were raided 10 times by officials from various departments during the past one month. Jacob had alleged that about 40 to 50 officials entered the factory units, carried out searches, prevented workers, including women employees, from doing their job, grilled them and 'harassed' them. He had also claimed that the officials did not reveal the reasons for conducting such searches and what violations were committed by the company.