They are working in rubber plantations in Dakshina Kannada

The Karnataka Forest Development Corporation (KFDC) has decided to employ third generation Sri Lankan repatriate workers in its rubber plantations located in Dakshina Kannada.

Speaking to presspersons here on Tuesday, Forest Minister C.P. Yogeshwar said the corporation has sought the Law Department’s opinion on modifying an earlier agreement which provided for employment to two generations of Sri Lankan repatriates. These repatriates came to settle down in Sullia and Puttur taluks of Dakshina Kannada district between 1962 and 1967 by virtue of an Indo-Sri Lankan agreement.

About 1,700 workers from 960 families are working in rubber plantations of the corporation, he said. A majority of them are engaged in rubber tapping and are paid Rs. 225 a day, while the minimum wage fixed by the government was Rs. 154.

In addition, being permanent workers of the corporation, they get benefits such as free accommodation, provident fund, employees state insurance, he said.

The former Chief Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda, who attended the news conference, said that many of the workers who are on the verge of retirement would lose shelter if the original agreement is to be followed. This will affect hundreds of people and hence, the decision to extend employment to third generation repatriates. Mr. Sadananda Gowda had twice represented Puttur Assembly constituency and had fought for these repatriates. Mr. Yogeshwar added that the corporation intends to strengthen its activities and does not want to lose these skilled workers.

Profits

Mr. Yogeshwar said that KFDC is one of the State government undertakings which has been making profits. It has been paying 20 per cent bonus to workers since four years. In 2011-12 too, the corporation earned Rs. 6.43 crore profit and 20 per cent bonus would be paid, as against the statutory 12 per cent. This year, the corporation had to bear Rs. 2.7 crore financial burden following wage revision, he added.

The corporation has two divisions — pulpwood and rubber. While pulpwood groves are found in about 60,000 hectares of land in Dharwad, Chikmaglur, Shimoga, Bangalore and Kolar districts, rubber plantations are available in 4,443 hectares of land in Dakshina Kannada district. Three rubber processing plants have been set up at Bilinele near Kukke Subrahmanya, Medinadka and Ivarnad, all in Sullia taluk.

Sullia MLA S. Angara, corporation chairman S.N. Manmatha, managing director B.K. Singh and Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Head of Forest Force A.K. Varma were present.