Bata to shift headquarters from Bengal to Delhi

Tuesday, 23 September 2003, 07:00 Hrs
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KOLKATA: Footwear major Bata has joined a long list of private sector companies that are shifting their major businesses from Communist-ruled West Bengal to elsewhere in the country.

Bata's decision to move its headquarters to New Delhi has come at a time when the state's Left Front government is trying its best to win the confidence of private investors.

In its planned shift to a new base, the company will first move six crucial departments -- exports, production planning, product development, merchandising, wholesale and retail.

The move has angered workers, who have petitioned the state government to intervene and persuade the management to stay on.

The Bata Workers' Union has written to Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya and Labour Minister Mohammed Amin expressing fears that shifting headquarters to New Delhi could be an indication of the management's desire to curtail operations in the state.

Bata has a major production facility at Batanagar near here.

The state government is also keen that Bata stays on because if the company moves to New Delhi, it will send wrong signals to private investors.

Already several big companies, including Philips, Shaw Wallace, ICI, Ispat Group and Jensen and Nicholson have shifted either their corporate headquarters or important divisions out of Kolkata.

West Bengal lost its pre-eminence as one of India's most industrialised states primarily due to militant trade unionism patronised by the leftist government. The flight of companies began in the mid-1980s.

A few years ago employees of Bata had assaulted their managing director, evoking unified condemnation of the incident from industry.

Irate workers often attack management employees and have killed at least two managerial staff members of jute companies over payment dues.

Kolkata, however, is still home to leading tea companies like Tata Tea, Goodricke, Duncans and Williamson Magor. Tobacco major ITC is headquartered in the city.

The growth of militant trade unionism, that has forced many companies to consider relocation, has been rued now by no less than Marxist stalwart Jyoti Basu whose 24 years as chief minister saw a dramatic rise in such trade unionism.

Basu's Communist Party of Indian-Marxist (CPI-M) took power in 1977 with trade unionism as a major political instrument.

"Militant trade unionism is a mistake. Sieges, strikes and other kinds of hooliganism are not conducive to the changing industrial scenario in Bengal," Basu said recently.

Source: IANS
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