About six decades ago, Coimbatore had 110 textile mills and several foundries. In several units a staff member stood outside the gate and asked those who passed by to join the unit for work. It was difficult to get workers and the facilities available for the workers at the units were also not much.
One of the textile mills, Kaleeswara Mills, had 1,300 workers, including about 350 women, in 1950.
K.P. Krishnan Kutty Menon joined Kaleeswara Mills in Coimbatore in 1948 at the age of 17.
He worked at the mill as a cloth examiner till 1986 and was also an executive member of AITUC.
He had participated in several talks with the textile mill managements, heard the talks of candidates during elections, and attended meetings of national leaders (which were held at the Coronation Park).
He says that on an average, a worker would have to travel 10 km by bicycle to come to the textile mill here and those who lived within three km or four km radius would walk to work in the 1950s. The workers’ expectations then included a permanent job, salary, housing facilities and amenities at the work place.
There were several struggles for wage revisions. Workers would not even get tea within the mill premises and they demanded canteen facilities.
There were not as many political parties as there are now. During election time, candidates from all political parties spoke about the demands of the workers. They organised gate meetings and address the workers after every eight-hour shift.Economic issues
The candidates spoke of economic issues, the achievements of the government, demands of the workers, etc. Even national leaders who came here spoke on labour issues, he says.
Mr. Menon says the demands and aspirations of the workers have changed over the years and the policies of the managements and Governments have also changed.
However, there are issues that are affecting the common man, he says.
Investments are reducing here because of the power cut problem. When investments decline, the economic growth will also drop.
The cost of living is increasing. These are affecting the workers and the common man and need a permanent solution, he says.