Workers at a tea estate in Manjolai Hills
Workers at a tea estate in Manjolai Hills(File photo | S Senbagapandiyan)

Manjolai hills should be under TN government control: Appavu

If the private company is forcing workers to apply for voluntary retirement, the district administration will take strict action.

TIRUNELVELI: Assembly Speaker M Appavu suggested the state government on Tuesday to take control of the Manjolai Hills instead of handing over the reins to the forest department. This is in view of the expiration of the lease of the private company, running the tea estate, by 2028. The speaker also emphasised on the potential restrictions the forest officials might impose, which might affect tourism.

"The company is claiming huge losses by running the estate in Manjolai. There is also considerable shrinkage of plantation areas on the hills. Earlier, the forest department had placed restrictions on tourists visiting the Agasthyamalai in the Western Ghats while the route through Kerala was kept open for public by the Kerala forest department, thereby diverting tourism from the state. The Manjolai Hills might also face mismanagement if the state government does not intervene in time," said Appavu.

"While forest officials are imposing restrictions on devotees visiting the Sorimuthu Ayyanar Temple in the Western Ghats, the state government is working with the Tirunelveli district administration to help devotees. While access to the Nambikovil temple near Kalakkad was restricted post the COVID - 19 pandemic, it was only after my intervention the devotees were allowed. They are also preventing private vehicles. I will bring this to the notice of Chief Minister MK Stalin. Forest officials of other states do not violate the rights of their devotees and tourists in this manner," added Appavu.

He further said that the workers who wish to stay on the hills, should be permitted to do so. He added that the state government will construct houses for those who want to move to the plains. They will also be provided a subsidy, if they want to set up a business of their own. If the private company is forcing workers to apply for voluntary retirement, the district administration will take strict action.

He also pointed out the machinery being transported to Kothayar hydro-power station through the hills requires the state government's supervision, he said. "Rumours of water and power supply being cut to residential areas of the hills are false. No such action can be taken before 2028. The government will take a call on whether the Tamil Nadu Tea Plantation Corporation should take over the Manjolai tea estates soon," he added.

The New Indian Express