Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Corporate India is in shock after a mob of sacked workers bludgeoned to death the CEO who had dismissed them from a factory in a suburb of Delhi

Lalit Kishore Choudhary, 47, the head of the Indian operations of Graziano Transmissioni, an Italian-headquartered manufacturer of car parts, died of severe head wounds after being attacked by scores of laid-off employees, police said. The incident, in Greater Noida, just outside the Indian capital, followed a long-running dispute between the factory's management and workers who had demanded better pay and permanent contracts. It is understood that Choudhary, who was married with one son, had called a meeting with more than 100 former employees - who had been dismissed following an earlier outbreak of violence at the plant - to discuss a possible reinstatement deal. A police spokesman said: "Only a few people were called inside. About 150 people were waiting outside when they heard someone from inside shout for help. They rushed in and the two sides clashed. The company staff were heavily outnumbered." Other executives said they were lucky to escape with their lives. "I just locked my room's door from inside and prayed they would not break in. See, my hands are trembling even three hours later," an Italian consultant, Forettii Gatii, told a local newspaper. More than 60 people were arrested and more than 20 were in hospital. A spokesman for the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry said: "Such a heinous act is bound to sully India's image among overseas investors." The murder has stoked fears that outbreaks of mob rule risk jeopardising the subcontinent's economic rise. In the most high-profile incident so far, thousands of violent protestors recently forced Tata, the Indian conglomerate that owns Land Rover and Jaguar, to halt work on the plant being built to produce the world's cheapest car - the £1,250 Nano. The move could result in nearly £200 million in investment written off. Tata halted work claiming it could not guarantee its workers safety at the factory in the state of West Bengal. In a rare show of support for a competitor, the billionaire industrialist Mukesh Ambani, one of India's most powerful businessmen, said that the Nano crisis showed how protestors were creating a "a fear-psychosis to slow-down certain projects of national importance." Other companies, including Vedenta, the London-listed mining company, have encountered similar problems in India. In a statement issued from Rivoli in Italy, Graziano said that some of Choudhary's attackers had no connection to the company. It added that the chief executive was killed by "serious head injuries caused by the intruders."

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