After passing the necessary bills to acquire the Ruia Group controlled Dunlop India and Jessop & Co alleging failure of the group to clear workers' dues and state government taxes, the West Bengal government has decided to pay Rs 10,000 per month to about 1,100 workers in these establishments.
"Employees of Jessop and Dunlop who are in the master roll will be given an ex gratia monthly payment of Rs 10,000. The process has been taken up by the Industrial Reconstruction department," the state's finance minister Amit Mitra announced.
The two bills - Dunlop India Ltd (Acquisition and Transfer of Undertaking) Bill, 2016 and Jessop & Company Ltd (Acquisition and Transfer of Undertaking) Bill, 2016 - which were passed by the Assembly on February 27 will facilitate the state's complete managerial takeover as well as control of the assets of these companies owned by the Ruia Group.
"This step is being taken by the chief minister (Mamata Banerjee) as a humanitarian welfare for the workers", Mitra said.
The Trinamool Congress-backed trade union, INTUC has welcomed the move.
"This will definitely help reduce the stress on workers and it shows the government's intentions to rejuvenate industry in West Bengal as well as look into labourers' issues", its West Bengal state president Dola Sen told Business Standard.
Dunlop India's plant at Sahaganj in West Bengal has been closed since October 2011 while its Ambattur plant in Tamil Nadu closed down in 1998.
Workers in Jessop and Co had also faced a similar fate when its Durgapur plant in West Bengal closed down in April, 2001.
One of the major trade unions in Dunlop and Jessop & Co, the Congress backed INTUC has, however, raised suspicion over the government's decision terming it as a "political gimmick".
"This is purely a decision which has been motivated keeping in mind the upcoming Assembly elections. If the government was serious about the workers' pending dues from the Ruia Group it should have scouted for an able company to take control of these companies instead of acquiring these units", Ramen Pandey, state president of INTUC told this newspaper.
He reasoned that the state's finance minister, Mitra had failed to re-industrialise the state and raised concerns about how the acquisition as well as the ex gratia sum will be financed.
Under the announcement of payment of the ex gratia, the Mamata Banerjee led Trinamool government will have to shell Rs. 1.10 crore per month to meet its commitment.
"They (the government) don't have enough money to pay dues of workers in the transport department, from where will they arrange for this money", Pandey asked.
He said a minimum initial payment between Rs. 50,000 to Rs. 1,00,000 as ex gratia followed by a monthly payment of Rs. 25,000 needed to be paid to the workers for their sustenance instead of paying Rs. 10,000 per month.
Until late night, the CPI-M backed CITU, suffering from indecision amidst its top ranks was yet to take a stand on the state government's move.
"If the government comes to the aid of those workers, it is an appreciable move. But we can't comment at this moment and we are yet to take a stand on this", Dipak Dasgupta, general secretary of the West Bengal unit of CITU told this business daily.
In the bills passed facilitating the managerial takeover and complete acquisition of the assets of Dunlop and Jessop & Co, the state government said the call was taken after the Ruia Group led management showed little interest to invigorate the ailing companies.