DOLAKHA, Nov 11: Cadres of the CPN-Maoist have taken control of a Dolakha-based magnetite industry in a move they described as an effort to protect the factory from being handed over to foreigners.
On Saturday, the CPN-Maoist cadres planted a flag on the premises of Nepal Orient Magnetite at Lakuridanda-7 of Dolakha district, accusing the government of trying to sell the country´s property to foreigners.
The CPN (Maoist) have threatened to "capture the factory completely" if the government handed over its management to Indian industrialists in the name of adopting public-private partnership model.
“In principle, we are not against running the factory under public-private partnership model,” said Purna Bahadur Khadka, Dolakha district in-charge of the CPN-Maoist. “But, we have learnt that the government is now trying to hand over the management of the factory to Indian industrialists on the pretext of adopting a new model.”
According to Khadka, some Indian industrialists and Nepali businessmen had visited Dolakha and observed the factory site shortly after the government´s decision. “This clearly shows that the Baburam Bhattarai government is determined to hand over the magnetite industry to India,” said Khadka.
Organizing a press conference in Dolakha on Saturday, Surya Baral, the district secretary of the CPN-Maoist, accused the government of trying to sell the factory to mafia. “Behind the sweet slogan is the government intention to hand over such a huge natural resource to mafia,” Baral said.
Baral said that the CPN-Maoist will not create any hurdles if the government ensures transparency and protects the rights of the locals while running the industry on public-private partnership. “We will back off if the details about the government´s decision are made public and the rights of the locals are safeguarded,” he said.
The factory, which has been out of operation for many years now, was established in an area rich with magnetite-stones in 1982. Initially set up with the equal investments from the Nepal government and Orissa Industry, an Indian company, the industry began test production in 1991. As the test production failed, the management of the factory, which was in the hands of Indians initially, was taken over by the Nepal government.
Subsequently, the Indian company sold 25 percent shares, out of its stake of 50 percent, to Khetan group of Nepal. Later, Nepal government increased its stake in the factory to 75 percent, leaving the Orissa Industry and the Khetan group only with 12.5 per cent stake each.
A decade ago, the magnetite industry was closed down after Nepal´s product, processed in India, failed to compete with cheap Chinese products. The factory workers, however, continued to carry out indiscriminate mining of magnetite stones without caring about environmental impact. The rampant mining has now stopped, thanks to the death of two local boys, who fell into a pit created by the unbridled mining.