Thanks to bureaucratic harassment, world’s second largest kidswear manufacturer and exporter Kitex Garments, Kerala is dropping its Rs. 3,500 crore investment project. The project was announced during the Ascend Kerala – an investment summit in 2020 January.
These investments would have generated employment for around 35,000 people, including around 20,000 in the apparel park.
The investments were planned to be completed by 2025. The company has already acquired 30 acres of land for the apparel park at Kizhakkambalam in Kochi.
The continuous surprise inspections by bureaucrats from various state departments are major reasons behind this step of the apparel manufacturer.
Sabu Jacob, Chairman, Kitex Group revealed, “The projects included an apparel park which could employ 20,000 people and three industrial parks at Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram and Palakkad which could employ 5,000 people at each location. As per the agreement signed with the Kerala Government, further actions were taken. Land was acquired for the apparel park and the detailed project report was ready. Without the Covid pandemic affecting the work, our target was to finish the project by 2025,” Jacob stated.
Sabu Jacob described “the humiliating experience” of being subjected to repeated and frequent checks on the firm’s compliance with the laws and regulations.
He further added, “It is difficult to continue operating even the existing industrial units within Kerala – during the last one month, 11 times the officials conducted surprise inspections in our premises. 40 to 50 officials come down in ten or fifteen vehicles and storm into each floor of the buildings and question the workers, including the women, and take down their name, address and phone numbers. Each time, they spend three or four hours to question 300 to 400 hundred people, but they haven’t told us yet why they are conducting the inspection or what they have found out.”
It is pertinent to mention here that Kerala’s rank in Ease of Doing Business is 28th, out of the 29 states in India.
Employing around 10,000 people, Kitex group had been operating in the State for many decades. It had been bound by the regulations and had been issued licences to operate. But there is a sense of being ‘hounded’ by the authorities, he said, adding that things had gotten out of hand.
Jacob also said that during the 1970s and 1980s, it was the trade unions that killed the industries in Kerala, but now, it is the pseudo-environmentalists, bureaucrats and politicians who are killing the industry. They will try to scare away those who won’t yield to their interests.
It can be mentioned here that Sabu Jacob is the founder of Kizhakkambalam Twenty20, an apolitical formation under the aegis of the Anna Kitex Group, which won a majority in Kizhakkambalam and neighbouring Aikkaranadu panchayats in Kerala.
Asked whether the harassment was because of the growth of Twenty20, the corporate-led non-profit organisation that rules Kizhakkambalam panchayat, Sabu said Kitex has been facing harassment for decades.
Established in 1992, Kitex Garments has vision to become world number one infant garment manufacturer by 2025. The company works with leading brands and retailers like Mothercare, J C Penney, Walmart, Jockey, Sarah Lee, Gerber and others.