KERALA

10 Nelliampathy estates closed

PALAKKAD, MARCH 24. The general crisis in the plantation sector has badly affected Nelliampathy Hills, a major plantation area in the district, resulting in the closure of 10 estates and rendering nearly 5,000 workers jobless.

The 1,114-acre Chandramala tea estate is the latest one that was closed down last month. The talks between the District Labour Officer and the management to find some solution to the problem for its reopening did not yield results.

The district president of the Estate Mazdoor Sangh, E. Eswaran, said here on Sunday that the other estates that were closed down included 1,000-acre Anamada, Mennampara, Miraflores, Rosery, Beatrice, Golden Valley and Karimala. He said that 700 workers of the Chandramala Estate were now unemployed. The closure of the estate had also affected nearly 1,000 temporary workers who used to get jobs in this estate.

He said that the closure of ten estates in Nelliampathy had rendered 3,000 permanent workers and 2,000 temporary workers jobless.

He said that there were 54 estates, both big and small in Nelliampathy that employ nearly 10,000 workers. During the 1980s when the plantation sector was prospering, Nelliampathy used to employ 20,000 workers. But now the situation had vastly changed and even one member from each family was not getting job in the estates.

Free ration

Mr. Eswaran said that already a large number of families had left Nelliampathy in search of jobs elsewhere.

The State general secretary of the Bharatheeya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), Dorairaj, said that considering the problem of jobless workers in the Nelliampathy plantation sector, the Government had sanctioned free ration. But less than 200 of them only were getting it now. It should be extended to all jobless workers in Nelliampathy plantations, he said.

Mr. Dorairaj said that from estate to estate, issues were different. In some estates, the mismanagement was the problem. In some others, the fight over property rights among the partners was the issue. The managements in a few other estates were not ready to follow the labour and other statutory laws.

He said the Government machinery failed to intervene effectively to tackle these issues. The `non-functioning' of the government departments to intervene effectively when issues cropped up was another reason for aggravating the situation.

Plea for tax concessions

Plantation owners demanded a couple of tax and other concessions considering the crisis in the sector due to crash in prices for tea, coffee, pepper, cardamom etc. But the Government had not considered any relief to the planters who were suffering due to the policies of globalisation and liberalisation. The import of most of these products also affected the internal market, the planters association leaders said.

They wanted the Government to provide tax concessions and liberal bank loans for the revival of the plantation sector in Nelliampathy.

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