LUCKNOW: Atlas, which became a synonym for the cycle in India, put a sudden brake on its operations at its biggest plant in Ghaziabad on Wednesday which, ironically, happened to be the World Bicycle Day. The plant in Sahibabad of Ghaziabad district was the last operational plant of Atlas cycles which was closed abruptly rendering around 1000 employees jobless in a single night.
As they reached the factory on scheduled time on Wednesday morning they got the rude shock of their life when they saw a notice pasted on its main gates saying the company had been closed for financial reasons.
The employees claim that they were never taken into confidence by the management nor were they intimated about the decision of lockout at the factory, one of the country’s oldest, at Site 4 in the industrial area.
“On June 1 and 2, we came to the factory happy about the fact that it had opened after such a long lockdown due to pandemic. There was not even the slightest hint by the management that it was mulling a closure,” says Mahesh Kumar, General Secretary, Cycle Employee Union.
“On Wednesday, as we gathered on the gates, we were denied entry by the guards who showed us the notice on the gate,” maintained Kumar who has moved to labour court against the abrupt closure. “The court has posted the matter for Friday. It has summoned the management and the employees both for hearing,” he says with the conviction of fighting for the rights of employees who have nowhere to go in times of COVID-19 pandemic. “There are no jobs in these difficult times. How will we sustain our lives? The management should either open the factory or make our final settlement,” asserts Kumar.
Many of the employees have been associated with the company since 1989 when the Ghaziabad plant, the biggest in the country, was started. It was the last operational plant of the Atlas cycle with a monthly production of over two lakh bicycles.
The notice pasted on the gates read: “...the company had been passing through a financial crisis for several years and had exhausted all its funds to keep the factory afloat. But now, there are no funds left. We are facing difficulty in arranging funds for our day-to-day operations. We are also unable to buy raw materials. In these conditions, the management is not in a position to operate the factory.” However, the employees laid off, have been asked to mark attendance except on holidays, failing which they would not be entitled for any layoff entitlements, said the sources.
However, the story of losses had started in 2014 when the first plant of Atlas Cycles was closed down in Malanpur in December 2014. The losses continued to mar the growth and second plant in Sonepat, Haryana was also closed in February 2018.
In fact, Sonepat plant was the first unit established by Jankidas Kapoor way back in 1951. Atlas Cycle Industries Ltd was the result of a modest beginning in a tin shed at Sonepat. It was then catapulted into a 25-acre factory complex in a record period of 12 months.
In the very first year of operation, 12,000 cycles rolled out of the plant. There was no looking back since then. Atlas Cycles sent its first consignment to overseas in 1958. Atlas has since then exported to several countries.
By 1965, Atlas had emerged as India's largest cycle manufacturer. Greater demand, higher production, and ever-expanding markets made Atlas a name to reckon with. It introduced India’s first racing bicycle in 1978.
It was the only brand that was appointed official supplier of bicycles to the IXth Asiad, in Delhi in 1982. As per the sources, it was conferred with the award of Asia’s most reliable brands in the cycle industry last year.
But who knew that the trail of dreams would end so abruptly in agony.