ALAPPUZHA: Industries Minister EP Jayarajan may have heard only about the latest protest by Alappad residents. It could be the reason why he was surprised by the ‘sudden’ protest against a company which is in operation since 1965’.
However, Alappad’s struggle against mining PSUs is as old as its mining history.
The mining started around 1912 by private companies and it was later taken over by PSUs in 1965. But the initial years were largely peaceful. “The fishermen community was ignorant about the mining. There were heaps of sand for them to be scooped up,” said district secretary of Dheevara Sabha M Valsan, who led many protests against IRE.
But things started to change when fishermen realised the mining started to affect their livelihood. They were also keen to get a salaried job in IRE. The first protest was led by former panchayat president of Alappad P Chellappan in 1970.
The protest lasted for four years and many were injured in police action. The second agitation in 1978 was led by Valsan to secure jobs for ITI certificate holders in the region. In the next two years, Karayogam of Pandarathuruth and Dheevara Sabha protested for getting a better deal for their land and for getting employment in IRE, in 1980.
The company recruited 240 locals as temporary workers in 1990. But the resentment against IRE grew in the aftermath of the tsunami that wreaked havoc in Alappad in 2004. Protesters blocked roads to the mining site and it led to the closure of sites for over two years.
By then the people realised the harmful nature of mining carried out by IRE, said Valsan. There were demands of stopping sea washing, refilling of land, use of scientific dredging.
As the discontent grew, it resulted in another round of protest in 2009. The Oommen Chandy Government announced an increased compensation of land and property leased to the company.
“They are neither keen to take up more land nor return the land after refilling,” said Valsan. According to him, the land was always taken at a cheap rate and residents were denied any benefits.
For many residents, the bloodied protests of the past are still fresh in their memory. “My father Sahadevan was involved in one of the failed protests. He used to say a time will come when protests by the next generation will succeed,” said Shyamala, a resident of Mukkumpuzha.