Salt pan workers happy over govt. dole

₹5,000 will be given to them during non-production season

D. Mukilvannan, who operates a salt pan along with his wife Lakshmidevi on a leased plot in Marakanam, is happy about the government’s decision to give ₹5,000 as dole per person during the non-production season. Salt pans in Kovalam near Chennai and in Marakanam function from February to August.

The pans in Vedaranyam function till September and those in Thoothukudi close by October. They are usually flooded due to the rains in the monsoon and the ridges of mud are made again after the waters recede when salt production commences again. Salt industry workers thanked DMK MP Kanimozhi for her efforts in providing the dole.

“I run the production on an old system called Thannpaadu where I am the owner and the labourer. We don’t have work for six months in a year and during this time do small odd jobs and manage. However, I don’t have any membership in the welfare board. I am now worried as to how they will include our names,” he said.

K. Ponraj of the Salt Pan Workers Union-CITU, Thoothukudi, said that throughout the State around 50,000 workers were involved in salt production and that this was a long-pending demand of the labourers. “Only around 10,000 would have registered under the Labour Welfare Board. The others need to be registered before the dole is given to them,” he said.

A salt industry insider said that since it was a seasonal industry, workers did not get benefits like ESI or PF. Many of them, however, had the government health insurance coverage. The men earn around ₹400-₹600 a day and women ₹250-₹350. This pay parity has to be set right, he added. “Registration for salt pan workers must be done at village level by the respective village administrative officers and not by tahsildars,” he said.

Official sources said that around 14,500 workers were registered with the welfare board and that they would get the dole. “We will also instruct the Labour Department to create awareness among these workers,” the official added.

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