Pratim Ranjan Bose

Kolkata, Dec. 4

"SAAB, please open the factory. My family is ruined," said a wailing Rajkishore Singh (50), a worker in the moulding division. "Sir, please give back my father his job. I want to go to school again," said Deepa Srivastav (13). "P.K. Ruia has turned the ailing Jessop around. He should be able to repeat it here too," said Nirmal Goswami (45) of the air bag department.

Some twenty odd jobless employees gathered at the main gate of the closed Sahagunj facility (around 75 km from Kolkata) of Dunlop India today when the new promoter of the company, Mr P.K. Ruia's car rolled in. Some were hoping for the best, while many were apprehensive about the outcome. They had reasons to be worried.

After almost seven years of joblessness and a series of promises of revival by the erstwhile management, which after a brief eight month reopening in 2000, finally closed the gates on August 20 of that year.

As Mr Ruia alighted from his car, he faced a volley of questions from workers. They were all concerned about just one issue: How soon would the factory reopen? Mr Ruia sought the co-operation of the workers in making it happen as soon as possible.

Breaking away all security norms, people were invited inside the factory premises and even before Mr Ruia was through with the customary `Puja', the workers started airing their grievances. Children pleading for opening of schools (there was once two schools inside the township), mothers and wives pleading for light and water and employees for reopening the unit.

"You go ahead. Bring us back our jobs. We are on your side," said the workers. Both the Centre of Indian Trade Unions and the Indian National Trade Union Congress leaders participated in the welcome.

Mr Ruia did not allow himself to be burdened by the expectation of his 2,670 employees. "I do not hold a magic wand. There is a lot of groundwork to be done before opening the factory. Neither can I promise to absorb all of you at one go. However, after seeing you, I am sure I will be able to re-open the gates once and for all sooner than I expected," he said.

"Personally I do not believe that workers can be a reason for the closure of a factory. I promise you all will get your legitimate dues as soon as possible. I am sure I will get your co-operation in regaining the lost glory of Dunlop," he assured the workers before meeting the two trade unions to make an initial assessment of the employees' dues running close to Rs 35 crore. This includes Rs 19 crore dues on pending 11 months' salary, Rs 3.75 crore on PF and pension fund, Rs 1 crore ESI, Rs 1 crore gratuity and others.

Mr Ruia will visit the Falcon Tyre facility at Bangalore tomorrow followed by a trip to the Ambattur facility of Dunlop in Tamil Nadu later this week.

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(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated December 5, 2005)
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