SRIKAKULAM: The famed cashew industry in the district plunged into crisis as the new financial year began with the 17,000 strong workforce launching an indefinite strike, Wednesday. The workers, who served notices to managements in March 2014, demanding a 70 per cent increase in wages, launched the strike as there was no response even after one year.
As a result, all the 202 cashew processing units in the twin towns of Palasa-Kasibugga, Haripuram, Mandasa and Savaragovindapuram areas remained closed Wednesday. The workers alleged that though the cashew industry had been making bumper profits, the workers were denied their due share and there was no noticeable change in their lives.
Palasa town in the district is known across India for its cashew industry. All the nuts processed here are top quality ones that are exported.
The cashew processing industry was started in Srikakulam in 1935 and the managements had been paying the workers as per the wage agreement. A worker earns `16 for processing one kg of cashew nuts. The processing includes physically breaking the shells of raw cashews, baking and refining. A worker putting in 10 hours of labour a day earns a maximum of `160.
Going by this calculation, a worker takes home `4,800 a month. Though the government has introduced minimum wages act, the managements are refusing to pay according to the norms. The workers are entitled to wage hike every two years, which was also reportedly being denied to them. In these circumstances, the workers served notices to the management demanding 70 per cent increase in wages in March 2014.
The workers also threatened to intensify the agitation if the managements refuse to accept their demands. The government must intervene and protect workers’ rights, they said.