Talks held with tourism officials, MLA fail

The million-year-old Borra caves, major tourist attraction in Visakha Agency, will be out of bounds for tourists for some more days as the guides of the caves decided to continue their strike while the other categories of workers of the AP Tourism Development Corporation had called off their strike following talks with Special Chief Secretary (tourism) Chandana Khan at Araku Valley on Tuesday.

The guides of Borra caves have insisted during their talks with Executive Director of APTDC Uma Maheswara Rao and other officials at Borra, in which Araku Valley MLA Siveri Soma also participated, that they should be regularised and their salary hiked.

The assurance given in writing by the then Tribal Welfare secretary Nagi Reddy in 2007 that 20 per cent of the gate collection at Borra caves would be given to the Borra panchayati should be put into action, they said.

The Girijans of Borra Panchayat were also not willing to budge and the talks had failed, according to information reaching here.

Executive director of Samata, an NGO, Ravi Rebbapragada was also present. The guides, who are working for the last 20 years, and local people were not willing to believe that a positive action would be taken soon and insisted that the government should concede their long-pending demands without delay, instead of trying to convince them to call off the strike as the Dasara vacation commenced and Araku Utsav has been planned.

Ms. Chandana Khan, who held talks with CITU-affiliated trade unions and Mr. Soma at Araku Valley, could not come to Borra. After the talks failed Mr. Umamaheswara Rao said the issue would be taken up with the Special Chief Secretary before October 19.

During the talks at Araku Valley, the demands of contract and other types of employees were accepted putting an end to the strike on its sixth day.

Among the main demands accepted were equal pay for equal work; converting the manpower employees as contract workers and paying them minimum wages fixed by the government, wages to existing contract workers on par with regular employees, all coming into effect from October.

Regularisation of jobs, sought by the workers and employees would be finalised by March next as the file was sent to the Finance Secretary, they were informed.

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