The National Textile Corporation, under the textile ministry headed by Smriti Irani, has not been paying its management and mill staff their salaries during the lockdown. From March onwards, the mill workers have been paid only a fraction of their salaries and the management staff have not got their salaries for the month of June. Letters have been written to PMO, labour ministry, and the textile secretary. This is despite the central government ordering all employers to pay full wages during the lockdown.
The annual budget for payment of salaries is ₹350 crore, which means NTC requires ₹29.16 crore monthly for salaries. There are 300 management employees and 7,200 mill staff working with NTC. In March, when the first lockdown was announced, the workers of NTC got only 75% of their salaries. In April, they got 60% and in May only 40% of their salaries.
“In March, the workers were only paid for the days that they worked. The government announced the lockdown, so shouldn’t they be paying our full wages. The average salary of a mill worker is ₹ 8,000. We have not been paid for the month of June and we are worried about the amount we will get this month. How can workers be expected to live on less than ₹ 3,200 a month,” pointed out Phool Singh Yadav, general secretary of the Textile Employees Union (INTUC). Workers have been protesting in Tamil Nadu and Mumbai for full payment of the salary.
While in the case of the management staff, only those in Delhi got their full salary. “All the others were offered only the Basic salary. There are two components to our salaries – basic and dearness allowances. It is in the ratio of 2:3. For instance, if a person’s salary is ₹1 lakh, Rs 40,000 will be the basic and ₹ 60,000 will be the dearness allowance. Most of the staff outside Delhi rejected the offer. This is nothing but harassment. As of today, none of us have got the June salary either,” said Kasturi Rajan, who works in the senior management team. The name of the person has been changed to protect their identity.
Yadav said the mills have not become operational since the end of March. “What is the government’s plan? Why can’t they sanitise the mills and open it for production? There are been silence about when the mills will reopen. Several of us laid siege to the mill headquarters here seeking full salary for May,” underscored the union leader.
However, the management staff said this was a ploy to show that NTC was a loss-making body to eventually shut it down. This comes at a time when the government has been crying hoarse to create jobs in the country. “₹1,000 crores worth of yarn and ₹100 crores worth of fabric was produced by NTC per year. NTC has the expertise to make personal protective equipment. What is stopping them from making it? If NTC were to make it, it would not cost more than ₹ 90 per suit. This is not surprising. The high-grade polypropylene is the raw material used to produce the fabric which is used to make PPE kits. It is priced at ₹ 10 per meter and hardly 4.5 meters is required for a suit. That comes to ₹ 40 for the fabric, then if we were to add other costs to it, each overall will not cost more than ₹ 90. That could have generated profit and work for the company,” said Rajan.
Instead, Rajan underscored, the kits were purchased from Reliance Industries. Reliance Industries had converted its newly acquired textiles and apparel fabrics maker Alok Industries into a PPE manufacturer. Reliance Industries has been charging Rs 650 per unit. The company has redeployed Alok Industries' manufacturing facilities in Silvassa for manufacturing personal protective equipment.
“If the government cared about the economy and not just private players, it would have begun work in the mills. The workers could have been engaged in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. Production could have been ramped up too. But, the government simply wants the mills to shut down so that they can sell off the land. If this is the plan, then the government should offer a voluntary retirement scheme for all the staff members at least instead of stopping or reducing their salaries at a time like this,” added Rajan.
NTC has land worth more than ₹80,000 crores all over India, including in Mumbai where they have vast parcels of land in Dadar and Parel. “Land sharks have been eyeing those prime land parcels for years. If the government quietly lets NTC die, those land parcels can be sold for profit. That’s what this government wants to do. It is not impossible to get NTC profitable, but the ministry should want it. Several plans for making the company profitable are with Smriti Irani, but she doesn’t want to take action,” explained Rajan.
This is one more nail in the coffin for NTC as the top management have been systematically eliminated from NTC. Currently, the company does not have a Chairman and Managing Director, director of the finance, HR, marketing, and technical departments. Currently, the CMD charge has been given to the joint secretary of Ministry of Textiles NR Dash and the finance director’s charge has been given to Bindu Sharma, who is also the director of the National Health Mission.