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UPASI terms demand for Rs 500 daily wage as 'impractical'

UPASI terms demand for Rs 500 daily wage as impractical

Kochi: An apex body of planters in southern state Tuesday termed as "impractical" the Kerala plantation workers' demand for a daily wage of Rs 500.

The United Planters' Association of Southern India (UPASI), top body of planters in Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, also raised suspicion over the recent agitation by women tea plantation workers in Munnar keeping politicians and trade union leaders at bay.

"It would not be possible for us to bear Rs 500 daily as wages. That demand is impractical...Because the current economic realities coupled with the plethora of taxes and levies, does not make it a viable proposition," newly elected UPASI president N Dharmaraj told reporters here.

He said the recent developments in Kerala and the way in which the management (of the Kannan Devan Hill Plantation) was "pressurised to concede" 20 per cent bonus when only 8.33 per cent was payable was a "very unfortunate development".

Claiming that South Indian plantation worker was one of the best paid agricultural workers in the country, Dharmaraj said the per day basic wage with DA in Kerala for a tea garden worker is Rs 232 per day and for rubber worker it is Rs 317.

"The basic wage with other statutory and non statutory benefits works to Rs 358.47 for tea and Rs 473.92 for rubber. The corresponding basic wage figure for the state of Assam is Rs 115 for tea garden worker," he said.

He said the need of the hour is to bring down the cost of production enabling the plantations to sustain without compromising on the wages to workers.

UPASI maintained that the plantation industry had been shouldering additional social welfare responsibilities which in normal course was the duty of the local panchayats and the government.

Dharmaraj, who was elected as president of the body in its recent annual general meeting at its headquarters in Coonoor in Tamil Nadu, said no concession was extended to plantation sector by way of reduction in taxes for bearing such expenses.

"Ironically, government levy additional agricultural income tax and it is as high as 50 per cent in Kerala compared to 25 per cent levied by Central government even on multinationals thus denying plantations ploughing back of surpluses, whenever made.

Nearly three lakh plantation workers, employed in different estates in Kerala, are on an indefinite strike to demand wage hike and 20 per cent bonus.

AITUC, CITU, INTUC, BMS and several small trade unions are participating in the strike.

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