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Indian chief exec murder 'a warning for management'

Outrage at government minister's inopportune comments

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India's Minister of Labour and Employment has landed himself in hot water by describing the death earlier this week of the chief executive of Graziano Transmissioni India as "a warning for management”.

Lalit Choudhary, 47, died on Monday of head wounds after being attacked by a mob at the Graziano Transmissioni car parts factory in Delhi. He'd been attempting to resolve a long-standing dispute with workers who had demanded better pay and permanent contracts, and some of whom had been sacked for their trouble.

However, a meeting with former employees turned seriously nasty and "the unemployed men began vandalising the machinery, turning on Choudhary when he tried to reason with them".

Company board member Ramesh Jain told the Hindustan Times: "Around 125 dismissed workers armed with iron rods barged into the factory and went on rampage. When Lalit tried to pacify them, they assaulted him with rods."

The Times explains that while the murder "has left much of corporate India in shock", minister Oscar Fernandes said the incident “should serve as a warning for management”, adding: “Workers should be dealt with with compassion... workers should not be pushed so hard that they resort to whatever happened.”

Unsurprisingly, India's business community reacted to the comments with disbelief. Rajeev Chandrasekhar, president of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, said: “I cannot believe that someone in the Government is condoning something like this. An innocent man has died. I am frankly flabbergasted. I am shocked.”

The Confederation of Indian Industry warned that the killing would "tarnish the sub-continent’s global standing as a place to do business", stating that "nothing in the world that can justify lynching of any person and no dispute can be settled by murdering an adversary”.

Graziano owner Oerlikon Segment Drive (Systems) issued a statement issued which said that "some of Mr Choudhary’s attackers did not have any connection with the company". This supports former employee claims that "outsiders" had been involved in the violence. One explained earlier this week: "We were demonstrating peacefully to get our jobs back. Outsiders may have assaulted the CEO leading to his death. Firing by the guards agitated workers and they clashed with the staff."

Oerlikon Segment Drive (Systems) head, Marcello Lamberto, said: “We absolutely condemn the attack. This is by no means a regular labour conflict, but is truly criminal action. The whole of Oerlikon Group is close to the family of Mr Choudhary in this terrible moment.” ®

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