The employees of Attappady Hill Area Development Society (AHADS) that had implemented the Rs.219 crore eco-restoration and tribal empowerment project in Attappady tribal heartland organized a march and dharna in front of the project office in Agali on Wednesday to protest against the government decision to wind up the project.

Inaugurating the march organized by joint action committee of employees the CPI (M) Attappady area secretary V.R. Ramakrishnan has said that the AHADS project should continue to provide relief to the tribal population.

Inaugurating the dharna in front of AHADS office the Attappady Block Panchayat President M.R. Sathyan said that closing down the project will deprive nearly 275 employees their earning and livelihood.

It will also affect the tribal development projects in Attappady.

The project had helped the eco development of its barren areas. It also helped the tribal people to get employment and housing facilities in additional to their empowerment.

The employees are up in arm against State Government's decision to close down AHADS project described as a model eco-restoration and tribal development scheme in the country.

Since March last year when the Government decided to wind up the project the employees were demanding to give protection to their job.

Nearly 275 employees of the project will be retrenched from January 15, 2012. The government had asked the Project Director to retain a skeleton staff of 15 people only.

The government had decided to close down the project and retrench 160 of 274 employees, majority of them tribals, in an order issued on March 1, 2011 (GO. No. M.S-74\2011\LSGD).

Government Order said “AHADS was set up for the implementation of the Japanese aided project for the eco-restoration of Attappady. The project was formally launched in November 1995 and officially came to an end in March 2010. However Japan International Co-operation Agency (JICA) allowed time for completion of certain works already taken up till 2010. The work related to Total Hamlet Development Project (THDP) and completion of water supply schemes are almost over. Now completion of THDP is by using State fund in selected villages and finishing off agriculture and soil forestry and soil conservation operations. Moreover there is need for sustaining some of the initiatives especially the institution set up by the project.”

But due to the pressure put by political parties and people’s representative the wind up of the AHADS was extended by the government on a number of times. But now the Government has finally ordered its winding up by January 15, 2012, said Chairman of Employees Confederation K. Gopakumar.

He said that out of the 275 being retrenched only 86 are staff members of AHADS who will get benefits like PF and gratuity. But the remaining staff working as volunteers, drivers etc., are not given any retrenchment benefit by the Government.