The coir sector, vibrating with newfound energy, is headed for a bright future, putting behind its sad history of underpaid workers and a largely ill-equipped technical capacity, Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan has said.

Speaking after laying the foundation stone for a Government-owned Coir Machine Manufacturing Factory in the Modern Agency Compound here on Monday, Mr. Achuthanandan said the situation when the State’s coir sector, which employed over four lakh workers, 80 per cent of them women, had to depend on other States for machinery, would be over once the factory began functioning.

The immense potential of coconut farming and allied sectors, including the traditional coir industry, would help the sector move forward since the future demanded such natural products. The strengthening of the domestic market, modernisation initiatives, the freedom given by the government to coir cooperative societies from debt traps, revival packages, price stabilisation schemes and enhanced workers’ pensions were among the various steps taken up by the Left Democratic Front Government to help this surge, he said.

Mechanisation, he asserted, was being brought in without harming manual labour interests.

Finance Minister T.M. Thomas Isaac, delivering the keynote address said those who ridiculed the Left for once opposing mechanisation and now favouring it, would have to realise that the Left and its trade unions had always acted as per the requirements of the industry and its workers.

Citing the major agitations against mechanisation in the coir sector, many of them violent, Dr. Isaac said that was the right approach then.

“That was right then. There was an efficient and sufficient workforce then and they could not be left in the lurch. Now, circumstances have changed. There is a need for mechanisation since there is a labour shortage. So, this is right now. There is no irony in that,” he said.

Coir Minister G. Sudhakaran, delivering the presidential address, said a hike in minimum wages for coir workers was on the cards, along with a subsequent hike in prices of coir products as well. Coming down heavily on contractors and construction agencies for not showing commitment to public sector and government projects even while showing high professionalism in private projects, Mr. Sudhakaran added that coir exports were poised to cross Rs. 1000 crore this year as against the Rs. 800 crore worth exports registered in the previous fiscal.

A.A. Shukoor and Anathalavattam Anandan, MLAs, Coir Secretary Rani George, District Collector P. Venugopal, Coir Board chairman V.S. Vijayaraghavan, and others also spoke.