Nepal protesters demand compensation for slain ITC worker

June 21st, 2008 - 7:40 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, June 21 (IANS) Agitated workers at Indian firm ITC’s tobacco factory in Nepal, who went on strike from Thursday and blocked the highway to protest against the murder of a colleague by an armed group, are asking for Nepali Rupees 1 million as compensation from the government. Lila Prasad Lamichhane, an employee at Surya Nepal, the tobacco giant’s joint venture in Nepal, was abducted Wednesday from a village in Nepal’s turbulent Terai area by an armed group of former Maoists, the Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha, who killed him the same day.

After the 35-year-old’s body was found, agitated workers halted work at the tobacco factory in Simra village in Bara district on the India-Nepal border, demanding compensation for the slain worker’s family as well as adequate security for the work force.

They also closed a section of the highway that connects south Nepal with India.

Surya Nepal officials said they were shocked by the murder of a “member of the family” but were helpless over the demands since security was the business of the government.

On Saturday, however, the district security committee and workers reached an understanding.

As per the understanding, the committee will ask the government of Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala to declare Lamichhane a “martyr” and pay NRS 1 million to his next of kin.

It was not known immediately why Lamichhane, a junior staffer, was killed.

However, the security situation in the Terai has rapidly worsened after the April election with abductions, extortion and shootings on the rise.

Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat had promised worried industrialists in south Nepal that an industrial security force would be formed and deployed in the Terai. The promise is yet to be kept.

The Surya Nepal case also shows up the difficulties foreign investors have been facing in Nepal.

The blue-chip company lost millions as its factory remained closed due to a situation that was not of its making.

Other large Indian joint ventures like Nepal Lever and Dabur Nepal have had their factory gates padlocked or invaded by locals while United Telecom Ltd, in which VSNL, MTNL and Telecommunications Consultants India Ltd have stakes, had its office closed by the workers hired by a third-party contracting company demanding direct employment.

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