PERUMBAVOOR: The town is known for its plywood industry, spread around panchayats such as Rayamangalam, Vazhakkulam, Asamannur, Vengola, Kottappadi and Koovappadi and several places in Perumbavoor municipality.
The plywood sector provides employment to around one lakh people directly and around two lakh people are indirectly involved in the sector which has around 1,200 units.
The industry comprises units that produce not only plywood but veneer and resaw bandsaw. Of the total 1,200 units, 300 deal with plywood, 400, veneer and 500, resaw bandsaw. All the units operate within a radius of 15 km.
The industry began to flourish here over the past two decadess. Initially, there were only around 10 companies. But later the business picked up with more people entering the field and setting up more units. Sources with the Sawmill Owners and Plywood Manufacturers Association said the industry witnessed an enormous change when rubber wood was available in abundance owing to the fluctuation in rubber prices.
There is no market for plywood in Kerala. Places like Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and regions in north India are the biggest market for plywood. The industry is now the backbone of Perumbavoor’s economic prospects.Another peculiarity of the industry is that around 90 per cent of the labourers in the units are migrants.
Sources said the crisis that affected the construction industry during 2003 to 2004 saw a huge influx of the migrant labourers into the plywood industry.
V P Naushad, a trader at Perumbavoor, said the migrant labourers live in highly deplorable conditions. ”Their way of life is marked by a lack of hygiene which is a serious issue, he said. Officials should make necessary arrangements to upgrade their living environs and see to it that their basic needs are met,“ he said.
Use of drugs is rampant among the labourers. There is no system in place to check it. They have a serious role in selling drugs to the youth in the area, he said. He also urged the authorities to issue valid ID cards to the labourers. “If I recruit migrants to my firm, I am responsible for them. If they commit any crime or if they die owing to any mishap I would be the only person who would be able to give details about them to the authorities,” he said. If valid ID cards are issued, it would solve such troubles to an extent, he said.