Kochi: Kerala Industries Minister P Rajeev on Saturday urged Sabu Jacob, chairman of Kitex group, to reconsider his decision to backtrack from a Rs 3,500 crore investment plan signed with the State government.
The minister has also given his assurance that the allegations raised by Jacob regarding the harassment that his company had to endure at the hands of the State government will be looked into seriously.
“We will not allow any activities that derail the development of the State. Though we have not received any official complaint from Kitex, we will look into the issues raised by them seriously” the minister said.
He also pointed out that the Kerala government does not have a policy of carrying out "surprise or lightning" raids on industries.
Such action is only taken if there are complaints of a grave nature against any such entity, he added.
Kitex's chairman Sabu Jacob had alleged that his company was raided at least 10 times this past month.
The minister also argued that Kitex should have given the government an opportunity to resolve the issue before creating an embarrassment for the state by airing its grievances on social media.
“The State's industrial sector is on the path of revival. We will offer the government's full support to genuine investors,” the minister added.
Businessman MA Yusuff Ali has also urged Kitex Group to not backtrack from its investment plan in Kerala. He also requested the government and Kitex officials and hold talks and come to an agreement.
It'd be a shame if projects certain to provide employment to future generations don't come up in Kerala, Yusuff said.
Kitex claims to be the second-largest producer of children's apparel in the world.
Earlier today, officials from the Ernakulam District Industries Department arrived at the Kitex Garments office in Kizhakkambalam for formal talks as directed by the State government. This is the first time that officials from the Industries Department are visiting the Group.
Jacob said the officials had come to learn more details from the complaints that he had raised and to prepare a report on what had happened at Kitex.
The Rs 3,500 crore investment plan that Kitex Group had signed during the Ascend Investors' Forum in January 2020 aimed to build an apparel park and an industrial park in Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram and Palakkad. It is slated to provide opportunities for 600 entrepreneurs.
Jacob announced his decision to backtrack from this project citing the many raids that happened at the many units of Kitex from various State departments.
Just last month, 10 raids were conducted, Jacob alleged. He said officials comprising 40-50 in numbers entered the factory units and carried out searches, preventing workers including women employees, from doing their jobs. He also alleged that these officials harassed his employees without giving a valid explanation for the search.
Jacob alleged that it was political vendetta as Kitex Group is the driving force behind Twenty20, a charity outfit that made headlines when it won 17 of the 19 seats in Kizhakkambalam in Kerala local body elections 2015.
During the 2020 Kerala local body election, the outfit expanded even further winning nine seats in Aikkaranadu panchayat, five seats in Kunnathunad and five seats in Mazhuvannur. Though it had fielded eight candidates for the 2021 Kerala Assembly election, it won nothing. However, the fact that it secured a 14 per cent vote share against three national political parties won them much admiration from the public, angering its opponents even further.
Since his public announcement, as many as ten states have reached out to him, Jacob said. Tamil Nadu has even extended a formal offer to move his investment there.
The Tamil Nadu government confirmed that a proposal has been extended to the Kitex group.
"Proposal has been extended to the Kitex group, which is keen on investing Rs 3,500 crore in the textile sector," a senior industries department official in Tamil Nadu said.
Tamil Nadu, he said, has good potential for investments and it is a "very important, attractive investment destination."
Apart from land at 50 per cent of fair value, the incentives offered by the government include subsidised power for five years and 100 per cent GST waiver for capital investment assets.
Kitex Group has not taken a formal decision yet.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has called a meeting on July 5 to ensure that industrial entrepreneurs are provided all the facilities they require by all the related government departments.