| People queue up for food packets outside the Dunlop factory on Tuesday. Picture by Amit Datta
Sahagunj, Oct. 31: Dunlop reopened under a new management today to the delight of the chief minister while workers pondered whether there would be room for them.
At the 70-year-old tyre factory that had been shut since 2001, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said: “Young people are looking at us: kaaj chai kaaj (jobs, we want jobs).”
When Pawan Ruia bought the company from the Chhabrias last December, he had his doubts, Bhattacharjee told the workers and their families.
Not any more. “After years of uncertainty, Pawan Ruia has finally done it. It’s a red letter day,” the visibly elated chief minister said.
Very few at the Sahagunj estate shared the enthusiasm, despite being dressed in their best after many years and the fairground atmosphere.
Amarnath Das, in his mid-twenties, asked: “Will I get a job here'”
For the unemployed young man, whose father Taraknath was on the Dunlop rolls when it downed shutters in 2001 but suffered a stroke last year, the factory means a lot.
Only around 200 people out of 2,800 workers who were on the rolls when Ruia took over last year have been taken back. Managing director Samir Pal said 134 people would join this week.
Ruia has said that all the 1,189 people whom he has promised to retain in a pact with the unions would be taken back in 4-5 months.
The unit is starting with a daily production of 20 tonnes, about a sixth of its capacity.
Ruia has put in Rs 160 crore to refurbish the Sahagunj unit and the one at Ambattur near Chennai.
With more funds required to keep the unit in shape, both the chief minister and Ruia reminded workers that tough days lay in wait.
“Some of the old mindsets and practices must be changed,” Ruia cautioned.
Bhattacharjee said market forces demand that productivity and quality are maintained, thus there is a need to co-operate with the owner.
However, mindsets are not easy to change. Both Citu and Intuc declined to participate in today’s programme.
For many workers who have gone through their most difficult time in the past few years it may be too late in the day to change. The mistrust of the previous owner persists.
“We are getting far less than our dues,” said Joydeb Karmakar, who used to work in the canteen.
“The leader is back,” announced billboards hung from trees today.