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Marches planned to Chengara

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ANXIOUS wait: A group of elderly women at the encroached portion of Kumbazha Estate at Chengara, near Konni. —
ANXIOUS wait: A group of elderly women at the encroached portion of Kumbazha Estate at Chengara, near Konni. —

Radhakrishnan Kuttoor

Plantation workers, land struggle solidarity forum harden positions

CHENGARA (Pathanamthitta Dt.): The situation at Chengara is taking a turn for the worse with encroachers and plantation workers hardening their opposing positions.

The plantation workers and the Chengara Land Struggle Solidarity Forum have announced marches to the encroached land, and the fear is that a flashpoint will be reached.

The forum has scheduled its march for August 30, protesting against the blockade launched by the trade unions on the road leading to the Kumbazha estate of Harrisons Malayalam Ltd., a part of which activists of the Sadhu Jana Vimochana Samyukta Vedi have encroached upon.

Trade unions’ plea

The Joint Trade Union Action Council will take out the march on September 3, if the encroachers are not evicted by then.

The leaders of the council — P.J. Ajayakumar of the Communist Party of India (Marxist); Vilangupara Sukumaran of the Communist Party of India; A. Shamsuddin of the Indian National Trade Union Congress; and P.S. Sasi of the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh — submitted a memorandum to District Collector P.C. Sanalkumar on Monday, seeking immediate clearance of the encroachment for the plantation workers to get work.

They accused the authorities of criminal negligence towards their plight after being rendered jobless for a year following the encroachment. Their families were in a pathetic condition.

Diseases

Waterborne diseases are spreading fast among the encroachers. Food is scarce, as trade unions have been blocking the road to the encroached land since August 3.

Harassment alleged

“Though the trade union leaders claim that they have withdrawn the road blockade at Athambamkulam, harassment of Vedi workers and their women and children at Chengara continues on the road,” alleged Raghavan, an encroacher.

He said a pregnant woman was assaulted and had been admitted to the General Hospital in Pathanamthitta, besides 10 other Vedi workers who were attacked outside the estate.

The trade union workers had threatened the estate-bound Health Department staff, alleged Vasu, another encroacher.

District Medical Officer Aysha Bai told The Hindu that a group of plantation workers threatened the staff outside the estate the other day. The plantation workers, in a violent mood, strongly opposed holding of any medical camp on the encroached land, Dr. Bai said. She said the Health Department was ready to conduct medical camps if the administration ensured the medical team’s protection.

She said the staff who visited Chengara the other day came across many diarrhoea cases, besides stray cases of chickenpox. The Vedi workers said the health staff did not distribute any medicines.

M.D. Thomas, leader of the forum, alleged that the denial of medical care and food to the people, especially women and children, was a gross violation of human rights.

Mr. Sanalkumar said the administration had made arrangements for medical care of the sick people at the nearby primary health centres and the General Hospital.

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