YANAM: “I have been working here for the last 18 years. After the arson on January 27, the factory was closed. I do not know whether it will be reopened or not. Other companies do not give us jobs because of the violent incidents. I lost my livelihood,” said Velaga Nageswara Rao, senior operator in the kiln department of Regency Ceramics Limited (RCL) at Yanam.
Hailing from Rajupet village in Kotavarapu mandal of Vishakhapatnam district, Nageswara Rao has been working at RCL since 1993. His latest pay was `8,500 per month. RCL employees and workers are paid on the 10th of every month. But February 10 passed and there was no salary due to the lockout. “We are in distress. How can I lead the family without salary?” laments Nageswara Rao.
Nageswara Rao is one of the hundreds of workers and employees of the small town in the Union Territory of Puducherry who have been deprived of their livelihood due to RCL lockout. The future of about 3,000 workers and employees(contract and regular) of the factory appears to be bleak.
On January 27, RCL president(operations) KC Chandrasekhar was lynched after union leader Murali Mohan died at the hands of police and the factory was burnt down. This led to the lockout of RCL, one of the major factories at Yanam.
Three other affiliated units--Regma Packing, Regency Paper Products and Regency Blazes--also declared lockout in the first week of February. Though Regency Cargo and Transport, the only remaining affiliated unit of RCL, has not yet declared lockout officially, there has been no work there since January 27.
The lockout of RCL and other affiliate units puts a big question mark on the lives of about 6,000 people of Yanam, who are dependent directly or indirectly on them. About 3,000 workers and employees are employed directly by RCL, its affiliated units and other institutions run by the tiles major. Another 3,000 families, who are dependent indirectly on RCL and its affiliates, are also facing an uncertain future. Many of them are truck drivers and cleaners, and petty shop and restaurant owners.
“I used to do business of about `2,000 per day. But, it is hardly `200 since the lockout,” said Kumpatla Shiromani, owner of a small tiffin and meals hotel, located in front of the RCL main gate.
A middle-aged widow, Shiromani, has been maintaining her family for the last five years running a hotel. “The rent for the shop is `2,200 per month. If the situation continues, I have to shut my hotel; then how can I lead my family,” she asks.
“Now, here is no one to buy even a single beedi since the lockout,” says Yalla Nageswara Rao, a tea stall owner. Many shops in front of the RCL main gate have been closed since the lockout. The area which witnessed the hustle and bustle of workers going in and coming out is now wears a deserted look.
“We used to do a business of `9,000 per day. Now, the sales have come down to `2,000,” said P Balayogi, salesman at the Yanam cooperative liquor store.
Meanwhile, many workers are in a regret mode over the tragic incidents of January 27. “We did not expect this to happen. We thought our protest would end with dharnas. But it lead to the death of our president Chandrasekhar and major violence.
It is a great shock to us. And many families are now on the streets with the lockout of the factory” said Kudipudi Subramanyam, production in-charge at RCL. Drawing a pay of `8,500 per month, he now finds it hard to run his family. “I have been here for the last 10 years and recently I built a house by taking loan from a bank. How can I pay the monthly instalments with out a job,” he laments.
Following the incident, many of the workers and employees are praying and looking to the government for reopening of the factory. “The government should help revive operations. We depend upon the factory, we have no where to go,” said Sankar, PA to deceased president Chandrasekhar. Hailing from Rajampet in Kadapa district, Sankar has been living at Yanam for the last 25 years.