The strike in the houseboat sector called by the Kerala House Boat and Resort Workers Union (CITU) was total not only in Alappuzha and Kumarakom, but across the State.
The strike was called by the CITU, which enjoys the backing of 60 per cent workers in the sector, in protest against the alleged harassment of the police and the Port Department. However, the strike had the support of all the workers and even the owners, gauged by the response. The workers staged a rally to the Collectorate from Punnamada finishing point. CITU district president K. Prasad later inaugurated a dharna in front of the Collectorate. Union State general secretary T.K. Sajeevan, State president Prathapan and others spoke.
Mr. Sajeevan alleged that the police were torturing the employees on the pretext of raids. The officials of the Port Department and police indulged in such exercises every time a mishap occurred in the sector, he alleged.
He said the police misbehaviour towards the crew members and guests was resulting in cancellation of trips. He warned that the union would begin an indefinite strike if the authorities failed to resolve the issues raised by the workers.
Other than putting an end to harassment of workers, the union was raising issues including granting of licence to experienced crew members and resolving of waste problems and steps to save the tourism sector.
Meanwhile, the All Kerala House Boat Owners Association demanded that the power to issue licences to houseboats be taken away from the Port Department and vested in the Chief Inspector of Boats. Even three years after the Kerala Inland Vessel (KIV) Rules, 2010 came into existence, only a handful of houseboats were given licences. As per information obtained through Right To Information, the Port Department said that only two of the 84 houseboats checked were issued licences. “Now officials on contract are empowered to test the houseboats. The houseboats should be issued licence within 45 days of checking or entrust the Chief Inspector of Boats to issue the licence as in the past,” association general secretary N. Sreekumar said.
Kerala House Boat Owners Association leader Jomon Konnakappally said the government should spend more funds on a particular tourist spot to develop facilities of international standards in the houseboat sector. “The division of funds for several places for tourism development hampers facilities at a single spot like Punnamada finishing point,” he said.
Mr. Sreekumar said that the directive regarding lifejackets would be a setback to the tourism industry. “The wearing of lifejackets for 22 hours inside the houseboat during travel will make things difficult for tourists,” he said.