VIJAYAWADA: A few hours after they blocked Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu’s convoy at the Interim Government Complex in Velagapudi on Monday demanding minimum wages, members of the Nayee Brahmins Association held talks with the TDP supremo and called off their strike. Emerging from the meeting, representatives of the body said they were satisfied with Naidu’s assurances.
Earlier in the day, the temple barbers had marched to the IGC and blocked the Chief Minister’s convoy, forcing him to step out and reason with them. At one point, Naidu seemed to have lost his cool and told the protestors that he had already assured them of twice the amount they earn for tonsuring a head (the cost has been hiked from `13 to `25 at every temple) and promising them a minimum wage was “not possible”. “I will address every problem if it is genuine, but will not succumb to threats. The Secretariat is no less than a temple. It is unbecoming of you to behave this way,” he shot back, when the barbers raised their voices.
“We will do more for you in the future, but at this point, setting a minimum wage is out of question. I have doubled the price per shave, resume your duties now,” he told them. The Chief Minister attempted to negotiate with the unyielding protestors saying they could each earn around `25,000 a month if the revised price was implemented . “This should be a source for joy, but instead you are confronting me,” a clearly irate Naidu snapped.
The group had first met Deputy Chief Minister KE Krishnamurthy who point blank refused to promise minimum wages or regularised services.
When contacted, Nayee Brahmin Joint Action Committee President G Ramdas asserted they would continue the strike until they got a favourable response from the government.
“We can make `25,000 per month with the enhanced commission, but what we want is a minimum wage of `15,000 to ensure job security,’’ he said. The revised fee is likely to become a burden on temples. At present, temples collect `20 per tonsure ticket, `13 of which is handed over to barbers. When the revision is implemented, the temples will not only lose revenue from tonsuring, but will have to spend money to pay the barbers as the Dy CM had made it clear that temples would bear the expenses, not the government. When some barbers told the Chief Minister that all they made was a paltry `5 per shave, the Chief Minister had assured them that they would be given `25 at all temples.