Conflicting claims on board chairperson’s post hit jute mills

Biratnagar, August 7

The longstanding dispute in the board committee of Biratnagar Jute Mills has come to the fore with conflicting claims on the post of chairperson.

The rift surfaced after Basanta Ban and Mukund Nepal held separate press conferences in the past one week claiming themselves the legitimate chairperson.

The seven-member board of the mills has Phul Kumar Lalbani, Kishor Bahadur Shahi, Indira Parajuli, Devchandra Chaudhary, and Nilhari Kafle as other board members. While Lalbani and Kafle are in Nepal’s faction; Chaudhary, Parajuli and Shahi are in Ban’s coterie.

Earlier, a board committee meeting on July 19, in the presence of Lalbani, had picked Nepal as the chair. The same meeting had appointed Rajendra Karki as the official manager of the mills. Ban’s team, however,refused to defer to the selection of the chair and described the so-called meeting a total sham.

While Ban held a press conference in Biratnagar last Wednesday claiming the chair, Nepal held another meeting here today claiming himself the legitimate chair. The group has also questioned the legitimacy of Ban’s capacity as a board member in the wake of the process of pegging government stock at the mills at 68 per cent.

“He was the chair in the past, but is no longer the chair now after the government decided to raise its stock in the mills from the previous below 50 per cent,” Kafle argued. “As per the government decision, all stocks bought after 2006-2007 have been scrapped, and since he (Ban) had bought the stocks later, his stocks will also be automatically scrapped,” Lalbani said.

Ban, however, has claimed that his stocks and his stakeholder’s capacity still hold. Meanwhile, this tug of war has added to the complexity of the situation at a time when the long-closed mills is preparing to come into operation.

As the dispute continues, contract-based staffers have padlocked the administration of the mill, citing delay in payment. “It’s been 30 months since we haven’t received any payment,” said a contract-based staff member Jitendra Mandal.