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Saturday, Nov 23, 2002

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Kerala Govt plans meetings to reopen estates

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THE State Labour Minister, Mr Babu Divakaran, has said that the Government will convene separate meetings with management and labour representatives of every plantation estate that has ceased operations in the recent past after having been bogged down by cash losses and depressed prices.

The Minister announced this during the course of a meeting of management and trade union representatives called by a sub-committee specially constituted by the Cabinet of the Council of Ministers to address issues concerning the plantations sector in the State.

As per the latest decision, the meeting to be convened on December 2 in Thiruvananthapuram will deliberate on the problems in the Bonacaud Estate here and other estates in Kollam district.

Plantations in the Kottayam and Idukki districts will be taken up for discussion at a meeting to be held in Kottayam on December 5.

Dates for discussions in respect of other estates in the State will be finalised in due course, the Minister said.

At all these meetings, representatives of the management, officials and trade unions will be present, he added.

All benefits due to the workers from various welfare fund boards will be disbursed within a week.

The State Government has moved quickly to ameliorate the abject conditions in the worker tenements, he said.

Distribution of 10 kg of free rice has already been initiated.

Facilities at the primary health centres have been improved and upgraded.

Treasury controls with respect to grant of gratuity payments have been lifted, Mr Divakaran said.

The Minister requested the managements to end the practice of abandoning the estates in distress.

"The State Government is willing to provide all help necessary to reopen the plantation estates through conciliation. This would call for the wholehearted co-operation of the workers as well. Care will be taken to ensure them continued access to all benefits that were available at the time of ceasing of operations."

The Cabinet Sub-Committee will be in New Delhi during November 25-27 where it will hold meetings with the Prime Minister, and the Union Finance and Labour Ministers and seek their good offices for resuming operations at the estates.

The State Government meeting was attended by the State Finance Minister, Mr K. Sankaranarayanan, the Electricity Minister, Mr Kadavoor Sivadasan, the Labour Commissioner, Mr S. Srinivasan, the Thiruvananthapuram Collector, Mr E. Aiyappan, the Idukki Collector, Mr Rajesh Kumar Sharma, and Secretaries to Government.

Among the management representatives present were Mr R. Sharma, Mr Manish Sharma, Mr B.A. Arasu and Mr Mathew Thomas.

The trade unions were represented by Mr C.A. Kurian, Mr K. Padmanabhan, Mr P.K. Gopalan, Mr T.M. Prabha, Mr P.P. Soman, Mr Punalur Chandran, Mr H. Rajeevan, Mr R. Kuppusami and Mr K.K. Neelakantan.

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