KOCHI: The LDF Government headed by E K Nayanar sat over their files for a year and sanctioned `30,000 to each retrenched worker as interim relief. The total package offered - full of anomalies and later contested legally - was `64,000 per head, including PF and gratuity of `34,000.
“The money ran out within a year, but the jobs never came,” said Bhadran Pillai, secretary of All Kerala Kallu Chethu Madhya Vyavasai Thozhilali Union, formed to fight for the cause of retrenched workers.
In 2002, a year after the Antony government assumed power, the Cabinet issued an order to earmark 25 pc of the Class Four (daily wages) vacancies opening up every year at the Kerala State Beverages Corporation to the male dependents of the dead workers and amended rules to absorb arrack workers in toddy shops. However, the unions of toddy shop owners and workers challenged the amendment in the Supreme Court, which ruled in their favour in 2005. In 2008, the union of arrack workers questioned the legality of the government’s decision to selectively hire the “inexperienced” dependents of the dead arrack workers over the living ones. “During one of the hearings in the court, the judge asked the state counsel whether his government was encouraging people to commit suicide and he had no answer,” Bhadran said.
However, the government told the court that the arrack workers were not qualified to be hired for the posts in Bevco outlets and the government was incapable of generating employment. All these years, as the legal fight dragged on, the families of these hapless workers were struggling to make their ends meet.
“We are looking forward for a favourable verdict, but hope is not an everlasting thing,” said Surendran Nair, a former arrack worker and member of union.