Colgate Palmolive’s Nepal officials freed after high drama

November 21st, 2008 - 2:24 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Nov 21 (IANS) Two senior officials of oral care giant Colgate Palmolive India Ltd’s Nepal subsidiary, who were captured by a wing of a ruling political party Thursday, have been freed and are on their way to India, Nepal police said Friday.Ramesh Singh Rathore, general manager of Colgate’s formerly wholly-owned Nepal subsidiary Colgate Palmolive (Nepal) Pvt Ltd and Manoj Jha, its financial manager, were escorted to the India-Nepal border by police after being held by the Youth Force, the newly founded strong arm of the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML), Inspector Devi Prasad Poudel of Simra police station in southern Nepal’s Bara district told IANS.

Poudel said the two officials were captured by Youth Force cadres and handed over to police in Simra town Thursday. “We took them in for their own safety,” Poudel said.

At around 10 p.m., a police team arrived in Simra from Birgunj town on the India-Nepal border and escorted the two besieged officials to the India border, the official said.

The drama started after Colgate Palmolive India announced the sale of its Nepal subsidiary to Nepali company Everest Hygiene Products Pvt Ltd Nepal.

Though the Indian multinational said all employees of the Nepal subsidiary would continue their employment on the existing terms and conditions, the sale announcement triggered protests among the subsidiary’s nearly five dozen employees.

There was fear about the fate of the workers and some allegations that the officials were trying to leave without paying wages.

The Youth Force, which is now vying with the Maoists for power, jumped onto the issue and grabbed the two officials as they were trying to board a Kathmandu-bound flight from Simra airport. Later, they handed the two men over to Simra police.

The incident occurred on the same day that the Youth Force led a general strike in Kathmandu valley during which vehicles and shops were attacked.

Established in June 1988, Colgate’s Nepal subsidiary passed through a sticky phase during the 10-year Maoist insurgency due to frequent disruption and blockades.

In 2005, after it announced it was discontinuing the production of tooth paste at its Hetauda factory, it was on the cards that the multinational firm would finally move out of Nepal.

The firm’s exit is bound to send negative signals to potential Indian investors, especially after the capture of the two officials.

Nepal’s Foreign Minister Upendra Yadav had admitted this week that foreign investors were shying away from fresh investment in Nepal due to the lack of security.

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