Bengal government to acquire Jessop, Dunlop: Mamata

Kolkata, Feb 26 (IANS) The West Bengal government will take over two closed iconic industrial units – engineering firm Jessop and tyre maker Dunlop India, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee announced on Friday.

Addressing the West Bengal assembly, Banerjee said the government will bring a legislation for the purpose.

The legislation is scheduled to be placed in the house on Saturday.

The opposition has described Banerjee’s announcement as an attempt to “hoodwink the people” of the assembly polls bound state.

“We have decided to take over Jessop and Dunlop. We will take steps in this regard, and will also bring a bill,” Banerjee said.

The chief minister in this regard referred to the central government asking the Tea Board to take over the management of seven tea gardens owned by Duncan Industries in view of their deteriorating conditions.

Both Jessop and Dunlop are owned by the Kolkata-headquartered Ruia Group.

Contacted for comments, a Ruia Group spokesman said: “We are watching the developments.” He refused to make any further comment.

Ridiculing the chief minister’s announcement, leader of the opposition Surjya Kanta Mishra said she had no idea about how the takeover of a company was done.

“My apprehension is it is a conspiracy to deny arrears to the workers of the two companies. So far, no step has been taken to pay their dues. Even their provident fund and ESI amounts have not been deposited.

“Now suddenly, at the end of her tenure she has remembered the two companies.It it seems she does not know what takeover means. She is only trying to hoodwink the people,” said Mishra.

He said the opposition was ready to extend all help to reopen the two companies.

“But now I have been told there is a business advisory committee meeting at 9.15 a.m. tomorrow (on Saturday) on the proposed legislation for taking over Dunlop and Jessop. If they want to bulldoze everything to get the bill passed, we will take a decision on our stand,” said Mishra, of the Communist Party of India-Marxist.

India’s oldest engineering company, the 228-year old Jessop has in the past built iconic structures like the Howrah Bridge and the Vidyasagar Bridge over the river Hooghly.

Founded in 1788 as Breen and Company, the firm was re-christened Jessop in 1820. The central government took over its management in 1958 and then the company as a whole in 1973. Over the years, the company turned loss-making. In 2003, the government sold its 72 percent stake to Pawan Ruia, who heads the Ruia Group. Ruia turned it into a profit making business within a short time.

However, over the years, it fell into tough times.

Ruia ventured into the tyre industry in 2005 by buying DunlopAIndia Ltd from Manohar Rajaram Chhabria’s family in late 2005.

Both of Dunlop’s plants at Sahagunj in Hooghly district and Ambattur in Tamil Nadu are shut for quite some time.

The Ruia Group had tried to open both Jessop and Dunlop from time to time, but could not sustain the tempo for long.

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