To ensure comprehensive protection and livelihood rights

Tamil Nadu Manual Workers’ Union has sought the implementation of a separate welfare board for salt workers in Tuticorin, which is the biggest salt producer in the State, the second largest producer of salt in India.

Working to unite unorganised workers in a bid to uplift and ensure comprehensive protection and livelihood rights, the union made a series of efforts, according to M. Krishnamurthi, district secretary of the union.

The registered workforce was being provided with monetary benefits for marriage, education, natural death, accidental death and other necessary benefits through the existing welfare boards. Hence, salt workers, who live in penury, should be brought under the care of the Labour Department on a par with 17 welfare boards under its guidance for people of various working classes.

Totally, 34 welfare boards were operational in Tamil Nadu, he said here on Sunday.

Citing long neglected issues of the working class, he said the union has sought the intervention of the Central and the State governments to remedy the appalling conditions and ensure protection, basic amenities, employment guarantee, health and housing as an economic imperative.

With more than 20,000 acres of salt pans across Tuticorin district, the production was being done to meet requirements of domestic market as well as international buyers.

More than 55,000 workers from Kayalpatnam to Vembar hamlets located along the coastline in the district were being involved in salt production. Unfortunately, no effort was made to implement the much awaited welfare board for workers involved in salt production, through which India continued to get heavy foreign exchange. Unlike Gujarat, edible salt production in Tuticorin was contributing more to meet consumption demands in India.

Citing the agony of workers for survival sans drinking water and housing in thatched huts, which get damaged following unpredictable weather, Mr. Krishnamurthi said the workers were toiling both in salt pans and in their dwelling places.

“They tend to work only for a period of six months and get no employment during the rainy season. Besides, their health gets affected in terms of eyesight and skin problem. ESI medical assistance should be provided through welfare board when implemented. Moreover, they also get indebted for renewing their huts annually to brave the showers. Hence, monsoon allowance should be extended to them just like fishermen,” he said.

He said that the government agency should contemplate on implementing the MNREGA in salt production areas, including Tuticorin, Marakanam in Villupuram district and Vedaranyam in Nagapattinam.

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