KANNUR: In a major setback to the LDF government's claims of investor-friendly environment in the state, a hardware shop in Kannur was forced to shut down within six months of opening, with CITU workers, enraged at denial of permission to handle the goods coming to the shop, disrupting its functioning.
Workers of the CPM's trade union intimidated, even manhandled, those who came to buy things from the shop, its owner alleged. Rabeeh Muhammad (32) owner of SR Associates at Mathamangalam near Payyannur, said CITU workers had been on an agitation against him for the past two months as he had secured an order from the High Court for loading and unloading of goods at the shop with his own workers. "Nobody comes to the shop as CITU workers, who have set up a temporary shed in front of the shop, threaten them. So I have no other option but to close down my shop," he said.
"This is a rented building and I have invested Rs 70 lakh. It seems I won't be able to continue with it as they (CITU) are hell-bent on destroying me. Though I have lodged a complaint with the police, nothing favourable has happened so far," he said.
However, Labour Minister V Sivankutty said the closure of the shop was not due to labour dispute, but was the result of a notice served by panchayat. "The owner had licence only for one shop, but was running three shops," Sivankutty said while answering to questions from reporters in Thiruvanan-thapuram.
Licence not cancelled, explanation sought from shop owner: Panchayat secy
"The panchayat which looked into a complaint in this regard served notice for closure of unlicensed shops," said Sivankutty. Admitting that CITU has been staging an agitation there for the past six months, the minister said if there are any complaints against the trade union, they will be examined by the Labour Department. Rabeeh, however, refuted the minister's charge.
"Someone might have misled him as there is no such complaint against me. I have received only one notice from the panchayat asking for explanation regarding the use more space than permitted for the shop. They have asked me to rectify, if there is any anomaly. I'll give a reply," he said, adding "it is the CITU which is behind the complaint". Panchayat secretary K Ramani also corroborated Rabeeh's version.
The licence of the shop has not been cancelled, he said. "We have issued a notice seeking explanation from the shop owner on a complaint that he is using more space than permitted while issuing the license," she said. CITU Peringome area secretary MP Damodaran said the trade union doesn't want the shop to be closed down.
"Our only demand is in connection with the protection of job opportunities for the workers. CITU has the responsibility to ensure jobs for its members. Though we accept the court verdict, it would be very difficult for the workers, if all shop owners arrange their own workers for the business. The issue could be resolved through talks," he said.
SR Associates had started functioning at Mathamangalam on August 2, 2021. Right from the beginning there were issues as Rabeeh didn't allow CITU workers for the loading and unloading of goods in his shop.
As CITU workers tried to stop the operations of the shop, Rabeeh approached the court and got a favourable decision. CITU temporarily stopped the protest, but started a strike in front of the shop from December 23. "Since then, I was not allowed to load or unload goods at my shop," said Rabeeh.
Two weeks ago, Afsal Hussain, a youth league worker, who came to buy hardware items was beaten up by CITU workers. Though several rounds of conciliatory talks were held between Rabeeh and CITU leaders in the presence of Payyannur DySP KE Premachandran, nothing positive came out.