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Staff livid at Modern closures

New Delhi, Sept. 24: FMCG giant Hindustan Lever Ltd has shut down six plants owned by former state-run food major Modern Foods Industries Ltd which it took over three years back, and has served a notice to close another in the capital on October 10.

The MFIL Employees’ Union has in a written complaint to the Fact Finding Committee set up by the Prime Minister to go into allegations of violations of sale deeds by the buyers of two former PSUs — Balco and Modern Foods — pointed out that besides ordering closure of bread units in Delhi and Ranchi, pulp units in Bhagalpur and Patna, Faridabad roller floor mill and Rasika plant in Delhi, Hindustan Lever has now given a notice to shut down nutritional foods plant in the capital’s Rasika beverages plant complex.

The Fact Finding Committee chaired by Hashubhai Dave, head of the BJP-affiliated Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, which has as members joint secretaries from labour and disinvestment, was set up by the Prime Minister after allegations of violations of sale agreements was made on the floor of Parliament by MPs in the monsoon session.

BJP hard-liners, who are upset with the disinvestment process and welcome the Supreme Court judgement staying the HPCL-BPCL selloff, see this as a test case where they will be able to flex their muscles and embarrass the pro-privatisation lobby within the Vajpayee cabinet.

Notice of closure of the supplementary nutritional foods plant in the 8,000 square metre Rasika complex on Lawrence Road commercial area in Delhi has been served last month. Some 71 workers serving there have been offered the option of a voluntary retirement scheme or a transfer elsewhere.

When contacted, HLL officials in Mumbai said the plants shut down already were mostly non-operational or had extremely low operational levels, which did not justify keeping them open.

The nutritional foods plant had to be shut down as the Uttar Pradesh — its biggest client — had set fresh tender terms for food supplements which ruled out Modern Foods as a bidder.

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