THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: In a relief to the striking cashew workers in the state, the government has promised that gratuity and other allowances to employees would be given from December. Also the government would try its level best to re-open the cashew factories which had been remaining closed for some time, in December itself, if not for sure by January, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and Labour Minister Shibu Baby John assured the Assembly.
In his reply to an adjournment motion over the stalemate over the closed factories under Cashew Development Corporation, Shibu Baby John said that a final decision on reopening the factories would be based on the availability of raw cashew. He also pointed out the number of man days for cashew workers during the UDf Government’s time - 288 days (2011-12), 202 (2012-13), 192 (2013-14) and 190 (2014-15).
An amount of `65 crore was needed to clear the statutory arrears and the government had already taken decisions in that regard. During the previous UDF government’s tenure an amount of `177 crore was given to the sector, while in the last four-and-a-half-years, an amount of `186.35 crore was given to the sector, the minister said.
Earlier, seeking leave for an adjournment motion, former minister P K Gurudasan said that traditional industries like cashew were facing extinction in the state. “The factories under the Cashew Corporation were closed down in September. This year there were only 57 man days; and about 3 lakh employees in trouble,” Gurudasan said, adding that developments in the cashew sector were reflected in the economy of districts like Kollam, Alappuzha and Pathanamthitta.
The CPM leader categorically demanded that there should be a clear decision on when the factories could be opened, so that the striking employees would get relief.
Opposition leader V S Achuthanandan too demanded that a clear timeframe should be announced on when the factories could be re-opened, to which the minister said that availability of raw cashew was an issue.
“The proceedings should be transparent. So it may take about 40 days for the cashew to reach here form Africa. However, talks are being held to find out alternative methods,” he said.
Chief Minister Oommen Chandy also said that an amount for giving allowances to cashew workers had been earmarked. The decision on how soon the factories could be re-opened would be finalised once the availability of cashew was known. He, however ,assured the House that by January the factories could be opened.
Later, workers under the Kerala Cashew Workers Centre took out a Secretariat march, raising various demands, including reopening of factories, ensuring minimum wages and action against illegal processing centres.