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Move to reopen tea company a ray of hope for workers

Giji K. Raman
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AWAITING A FRESH START:An estate lane of the Peerumade Tea Company Ltd at Lonetree in Idukki district.— Photo: Giji K.Raman
AWAITING A FRESH START:An estate lane of the Peerumade Tea Company Ltd at Lonetree in Idukki district.— Photo: Giji K.Raman

The dilapidated building of the Peerumade Tea Company Ltd, closed down 13 years ago, now stands like a monument for about 500 families who live in the estate lines from Upputhara to Kochu Karuntharuvi. Their lives were once completely dependent on the company. When the company closed down, they had no place to go. Now, when they hear about the reopening move by the management of the company, it gives them a ray of hope.

Ramakrishna Sharma, the owner of the company, has told The Hindu that there is a move to reopen the company before the end of this month. But the management has to sort out many issues, including the demand for huge arrears from the trade unions, before doing so. Three rounds of talks between the management and the trade unions had failed.

However, the workers say they were ready for a compromise on the issue. They are rather worried about the issues involved in the reopening of the company. “It is not an easy task”, said Muthu, whose father was a tea plucker. He said that all the assets of the company including the office registers had been destroyed. Anti-social elements had stolen factory equipments, furniture and even the doors and windows of the building.

V.Mohanan, who was a superintendent of the company, lives with his family in the company quarters, which fell down in the rains last June. No maintenance works had been done in the employees’ quarters for the last 13 years. However, Mr. Mohanan still looks forward for the reopening of the company.

Meanwhile, the Idukki district unit of the Estate Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) has demanded the take over of the Peerumade Tea Company Ltd by the government. Its leaders B.Vijayan and P.Mohanan said that there was a provision for taking over of the abandoned or closed estates after 12 years of closure. The company had to pay nearly hundred workers gratuity, salary and bonus arrears when it was closed down by the management. About 500 workers had also completed the pension age, they alleged.

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