AITUC to hold convention in Thrissur today to press for the project

The Communist Party of India (CPI) and its trade union wing All-India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) are divided over the proposed 163 MW Athirappilly hydroelectric project.

The AITUC will hold a convention here on July 9 along with the Kerala Electricity Workers' Federation and the Kerala Electricity Officers' Federation to press for the project. AITUC general secretary Kanam Rajendran will inaugurate the convention.

CPI opposes project

“The district unit of the CPI is decidedly against the project. But there is no official campaign against the project as the party is part of the LDF,” says CPI district secretary C.N. Jayadevan.

K.K. Shelly, CPI district executive committee member, however, is the chairman of the Chalakudy River Protection Forum, a major campaigner against the project.

“The CPI's stand is clear. An environmental sub-committee of the party had passed a resolution against the project at a seminar held in Kochi. The CPI unit in Chalakudy too had passed a similar resolution,” says Mr. Shelly.

The 18th State conference of the All India Youth Federation (AIYF), the CPI's youth wing, held here in May had expressed its displeasure over the CPI(M) pursuing the project. “The CPI State committee has not officially spoken against the project, but the AIYF did. The project will certainly harm environment. Moreover, studies indicate the project will not be able to achieve its installed capacity,” says AIYF State secretary K. Rajan.

But A.N. Rajan, State secretary of the AITUC and State president of the Kerala Electricity Workers' Federation, disagrees. “If implemented with proper environmental protection control systems, the Athirappilly project can contribute richly to the State's power needs. Who said the CPI is against the project? If the CPI opposes, can the LDF pursue the project?” he asks.

Leaders apparently find it difficult to articulate their position when they simultaneously hold different posts in party and its feeder organisations. For instance, AITUC State-level leader Mr. A.N. Rajan is also district executive committee member of the CPI.

Critics argue that the AITUC is endorsing the project to have an upper hand in the referendum to be conducted among employees of the KSEB. A union has to win the support of a good percentage of employees to be recognised in the KSEB.

“The AITUC stand is not surprising as electricity workers invariably support civil works. A trade union can only support the interests of workers,” says Mr. K. Rajan.

Mr. Shelly agrees that the CPI and the AITUC have conflicting views on the Athirappilly issue. “The party and its feeder organisations have to discuss it at different levels to arrive at a consensus,” he says.