We are a peaceful state, Wistron’s incident one-off incident: BS Yediyurappa, Chief Minister, Karnataka

Karnataka chief minister BS Yediyurappa has responded swiftly to the recent labour riot at Wistron’s facility in Kolar that manufactures iPhones for Apple, to limit any damage to his state’s image in the eyes of foreign investors. In a chat with ET, Yediyurappa calls the attack on Wistron’s plant an “unfortunate, one-off” incident and says he would ensure such incidents do not happen again. Edited excerpts:

How do you see the recent incident of labour unrest at Wistron’s plant?

It is very unfortunate and we have been in constant touch with both the company and the union government. We are helping the factory to restart soon. I am very saddened, but it is a one-off incident and will not pose a setback to our intentions to create a labour code that works for both the labour and industry. We are taking steps to ensure investor sentiment is not affected.

Apple has said it will not give any new business to Wistron till it takes corrective action. Your comments.

That is an internal matter of Apple. On our part, we will extend full support to Wistron to resume operations even as we protect the labour interests there.

Do you have any plans to engage with Apple to address concerns, if there are any?

We are working with all stakeholders to ensure such an incident will never repeat. We are also working on guidebooks to help foreign investors to understand the Indian social conditions better. They will also provide glimpses of best practices for successful business operations in our state. We will do more handholding and workshops for both investors and workers. I am committed to see Karnataka emerges even stronger after this incident for investors.

What message would you like to give Wistron, and by extension to Apple?

Karnataka has always welcomed foreign investors and provided them with a peaceful and friendly environment. I assure Wistron and Apple that the political leadership and government officials in Karnataka are sincere in their approach.

You have been interacting with business leaders. What are their expectations?

At the beginning of this year, we met about 40 business leaders at Davos. Even during the pandemic, I have been conducting online meetings with corporate personalities. They look for a stable policy environment, ease of doing business and good labour relations. We are known for all the three. In addition, there is also a policy continuity even during a change in government. Post lockdown, Karnataka has managed to attract 42% of FDI (that India received). This shows we are on the right track. The recent amendment to the Facilitation Act makes it possible for new investments to take off without waiting for approvals from several departments. I wish to highlight here: Karnataka is known for an amicable industry-labour relationship with least number of labour disputes in the country.

Farmers are agitated over the recent land reforms laws…

Farmers need not panic. These amendments have simplified the process of selling/ buying agricultural land. We have more than 11 lakh hectares of uncultivated land. The amendments to Land Reforms Act are meant to make optimum use of the available land. The amendments will help people who want to engage in agriculture as well as industries to buy land. We have taken precaution to preserve fertile agricultural land for cultivation.

Are there plans to revamp the single-window system to make it more investor friendly?

We are developing a best-of-its-kind single-window clearance system. This will be a single portal for approvals and clearances from multiple departments. With the recent amendment to the Facilitation Act, investors get a three-year moratorium on taking 11 approvals.

How did the government keep the manufacturing activity going during Covid-19?

We were the first state in India to lift lockdown for industries that helped a quick rebound in manufacturing. Thanks to our initiatives, Karnataka today makes more than half of PPE kits produced in India.

What has been your approach to developing tier 2/3 cities as a counter magnet to Bengaluru?

The new industrial policy provides incentives for investments in tier 2/3 cities. We also have specific cluster development schemes for tier 2/3 cities, such as a toy cluster at Koppal, FMCG cluster at Hubli-Dharwad and agriculture implement manufacturing at Bidar. Gulbarga and Bidar have now got airport connectivity, while Shivamogga and Vijaypura will soon have it.

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