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Pawan Ruia bids for 100% stake in Air India, Dunlop & Jessop staff left in lurch

Kolkata: At a time when businessman Pawan Ruia submitted an expression of interest to buy 100 per cent stake in national carrier Air India, resentment is brewing among thousands of employees of Dunlop India Limited and Jessop—the factories his group had taken over in 2006—as both the companies are

facing liquidation, leaving the staff helpless.

According to the employees of Dunlop, the Ruia Group is bidding to take over an airline when around 350 out of the 1560 employees, who had to opt for voluntary retirement, are yet to get their dues cleared. They are still hopeful that someday or the other, the dues will be cleared considering that they had dedicated their lifetime to the company.

After maintaining a low profile for almost five to six years after the closure of Dunlop factory, sources said now Ruia met the Rs 3,500 crore net worth criteria to acquire Air India.

Surendar Prasad Karmakar, who is receiving Rs 10,000 ex-gratia that the state government gives to the employees of both the closed factories, said: "I worked in the factory since 1989 and saw many ups and downs. We hoped for a better time when Ruia had taken it over. But, he sold out the valuables of the factory, after operating it for a few years, and turned it to shambles. It is unfortunate that someone to whom the government entrusted has made our lives miserable".

Meanwhile, despite several attempts Pawan Ruia could not be reached for his comments.

It may be recalled that the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) had arrested Ruia from his Delhi residence after the Railways had lodged a complaint against him alleging theft of goods worth Rs 50 crore from the Jessop factory.

A case was pending involving various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) on charges of cheating (420 IPC), criminal breach of trust (406 IPC) and Criminal breach of trust by public servant, or by banker, merchant or agent (409 IPC).

After coming to power in 2011, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had tried her best to reopen the factories and meetings with the Ruia's group and the state government took place several times. The group had assured reopening of factories in 2014. But,

they didn't.

"As many as 1,179 employees were retained and 1,560 had to take voluntary retirement when Ruia took over the factory in 2006 from the Chaabria's. The factory operated in phases till 2012 but the employees who retired after 2010 are yet to get their dues cleared. There are around 350 such people. I am not that highly educated

to have deep knowledge on legal aspects. But my simple question is how he can go for another acquisition without clearing the dues of the factory that

he had taken over earlier," said the elderly Lakshmi Narayan Gupta.

It may be mentioned that the Mamata Banerjee government took initiative in 2016 to take over the factory and the Jessop and Company Limited (Acquisition and Transfer of Undertaking) Bill 2016 and Dunlop India Limited (Acquisition and Transfer of Undertaking) Bill 2016 was unanimously passed in the state Assembly on February 27 in 2016. The Bills were sent to the Centre for Presidential consent. But the state is yet to receive any reply in this regard and this comes when Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to address a rally at the ground of the closed Dunlop factory itself. Trinamool Congress leader Sovandeb Chattopadhyay said: "From where does he is getting the money now. It basically shows that he had no will to run Dunlop and Jessop."

Breen and Company that was set up in 1788 came to be known as Jessop and Company after William Jessop took it over on behalf of Butterley Company of Derbyshire. The company with the manufacturing unit on 63 acres at Dum Dum was a manufacturer of cranes and railway wagons. The Indian Government had taken over the company in 1973.

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