Kochi | In a brazen act, a ninemember gang of armed men, raising proMaoist slogans, vandalised the corporate office of the IndoJapanese joint venture Nitta Gelatin India Ltd (NGIL) here this morning, alleging that the company was causing pollution. The men with their faces masked and carrying iron pipes and inflammatory liquids barged into the office at Panampillay Nagar and allegedly broke the glass walls and damaged cars parked inside the compound, Ernakulam Range InspectorGeneral of Police M R Ajit Kumar said.
They left behind a letter in Malayalam stating that action was being taken against the company as it was causing pollution. The language used in the letter was of some Left Extremist group, he told reporters. The company had faced protests from locals against its Ossein plant in Kathikudam, near Chalakudy in Thrissur District, over alleged pollution of a river. The men carried out the attack at around 8 AM while the office was yet to open for the day. Only the security personnel and housekeeping staff and two of the company employees were in the premises when the incident took place, a company statement said.
As the attackers barged in brandishing iron pipes, the security personnel could not resist. They smashed the front glass panel and the glass windows of the security office into pieces and entered the ground floor office and damaged nine desktop computers, all within minutes and threw away some handbills before they left the spot, police said. Besides the IGP, Kochi Police Commissioner K G James and Company Managing Director Sajiv Menon visited the spot immediately on hearing about the incident. Kumar said one of the men was heard conversing in Hindi while another in Malayalam.
The security guard had told police that the attackers raised ‘Maoist’ slogans. Police sounded an alert at all travel points, bus depots and railways stations besides forming a team, including members from state intelligence, to jointly investigate the incident. Forensic experts and dog squad also visited the scene of attack. Expressing shock at the incident, Menon, denied the pollution charge made by the attackers. He pointed out to a recent study by National Environment Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) under directions of the Kerala High Court on the Ossein Plant of the company at Kathikudam.
The study confirmed that the company was compliant with the regulations relating to pollution control, he said. Kerala High Court had last year directed police protection to the company to ensure smooth operations of its Ossein plant in Kathikudam after protests by locals alleging it was polluting the river, he said. Established in 1979, NGIL is a joint venture between Japan’s Nitta Gelatin Inc and Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation.
Menon said the company had already fully implemented 12 of the 23 recommendations made by NEERI while the remaining recommendations were at various stages of implementation within the timeframe suggested by NEERI. The company has been pursuing progressive pollution control measures as in the past and by March 2015, all the NEERI recommendations will be implemented, he said. However, as in the past, company was always looking beyond regulatory compliance and was on the verge of making an important investment in an additional biomethenisation facility for further reinforcement of the pollution treatment capability, he added.
Condemning the attack, Cochin Chamber of Commerce and Industry said it was ‘shocked and deeply disturbed by the violent happenings’. Stating that Nitta Gelatin was a recipient of the ISO 14001 certification for Environmental Management System, chamber President C S Kartha said such attacks would severely dampen the business confidence in the state. NGIL, the second largest Gelatin manufacturer in the country, reported a post tax profit of Rs 1.08 crore for the Quarter ended June 30, 2014 after reporting net losses for the three preceding quarters. At present, NGIL has four manufacturing locations in the country, two in Kerala and one each in Maharashtra and Gujarat. In addition to the Ossein Plant at Kathikudam, NGIL’s second plant in Kerala is at the Kinfra Export Promotion Industrial Park (KEPIP) in Kakkanad, Kochi, which manufactures valueadded products like gelatin and collagen peptide.
The company’s products find wide range of applications in the pharmaceutical and nutraceutical sectors and are being sold in the domestic market besides being exported to more than 30 countries.