ITC’s Nepal arm re-opens, fresh trouble at Dabur

December 17th, 2008 - 5:27 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Dec 17 (IANS) After remaining closed for five days, tobacco, hospitality and paper major ITC’s Nepal joint venture Surya Nepal resumed production at its tobacco factory Tuesday in southern Nepal even as another Indian venture in the Himalayan republic, Dabur Nepal, was hit by fresh trouble.Two trade unions affiliated to the ruling Maoist party and the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist closed down the Surya Nepal unit last Thursday, demanding that the company implement the hiked minimum wage announced by the Maoist-led government recently.

“The factory resumed operation Tuesday afternoon after talks between the unions, company authorities and government officials,” said Shivanath Sharma, president of Bara Chamber of Commerce and Industry that had been acting as a mediator during the five-day closure.

Sharma called the shutdown unfair, saying that the multinational was already paying wages higher than the minimum pay determined by the government.

He also said the strike was lifted on the condition that talks would continue in Kathmandu.

The Indian joint venture, in which British American Tobacco and individual Nepali shareholders including Nepal’s former royal family, also have stakes, had to accept the unions’ demand that the striking workers be paid wages even for the period when the factory was closed.

Surya Nepal’s newer garment factory in eastern Nepal however was not affected by the strike.

Though the blue chip company that is also Nepal’s highest taxpayer resumed production, fresh trouble was reported at the factory of Dabur India’s wholly-owned company, also located in Bara.

Sharma said villagers from Rampur, where Dabur Nepal’s factory is located, have begun resurrecting their past demand for employment. In the past, the villagers had padlocked Dabur Nepal’s factory for several days with the same demand.

On Wednesday, the protesting groups were scheduled to hold talks at the office of the chief district officer for an amicable solution.

However, Sharma said the talks could not be held as some of the representatives did not turn up.

The fresh trouble plaguing Indian ventures in Nepal comes close on the heels of Nepal’s government’s promise to visiting Indian Minister for External Affairs Pranab Mukherjee last month that Indian investments in Nepal would be protected.

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