KOCHI: Though Kerala is ranked 28 in the Ease of Doing Business index, the state claims that it is transforming itself into an emerging investment destination. However, in a setback to the state, the biggest private sector employer in Kerala announced that it was withdrawing from a Rs 3,500 crore investment project on Tuesday, alleging an incessant witch hunt by the government.
Kitex Garments, the world’s second-largest manufacturer of kids apparel, announced the scrapping of the Rs 3,500 crore project for which it had signed a memorandum of understanding with the Kerala government at the 'Ascend Global Investors Meet' in Kochi in January 2020. The plan was to open an apparel park in Kochi and establish industry parks at Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi and Palakkad.
"We have already acquired 30 acres of land for the apparel park at Kizhakkambalam in Kochi. The project report has also been completed and the project would have provided jobs for 20,000 people. The three industrial parks were envisaged to promote start-ups providing all infrastructural facilities. Each of these parks would have created 5,000 job opportunities. The decision to scrap the project
has been taken as I am fed up with the continuous harassment at the hands of the authorities. Whoever invests in Kerala will lose peace of mind and will be driven to suicide," said Sabu M Jacob, chairman and managing director of Kitex group.
According to Sabu, 11 teams of officers from various departments have raided the company during the past one month. Departments of labour, factories and boilers and even a team led by the district collector conducted a search on the premises.
“On Tuesday, it was the turn of the pollution control board. Each team has 40 to 50 officers and searches every nook and corner of the company. They grill employees for hours but do not reveal what violations they have found. The Kitex factory has been functioning here for the past 26 years and we have 11,000 employees. They arrive with a huge team violating Covid protocols and bring camera teams of online media,” he said.
"While our neighbouring states give a red carpet welcome to investors, the Kerala government treats them as traitors. They are branded as bourgeoisie, exploiters, encroachers, capitalists and criminals and humiliated in public," said Sabu.
He said other states are providing free land, building, water, power and tax holiday for 10 years to investors. "There are states that provide the PF and ESI share of the employees. Some states even offer Rs 5,000 salary for the employees for five years. We don't demand any benefits from the government. At least they can stop harassing us. If the situation continues, Kerala will turn into a graveyard of industries," said Sabu.
Asked whether the harassment was because of the growth of Twenty20, the corporate-led non-profit organisation that rules Kizhakkambalam panchayat, Sabu said Kitex has been facing harassment for decades.