After Days Of Unpaid Labour, Kerala Workers Out Of Ways To Stay Afloat

Most of the workers have not been paid their last month's salary.

Kollam: Selvy did not expect to get paid today. A worker at a tea plantation in Kerala's Kollam district, the 42-year-old mother has not been paid for two weeks and does not know how she will manage her children's school fee.

"I am borrowing rice, fish and vegetables from shops since last two weeks. How can I do that for a third week? I have no money - not for myself, not for my children back home," Selvy says.

Workers at Travancore Rubber and Tea Estate earn 300 rupees a day but are paid 120 rupees once a week. Most of the workers, like Selvy, have not been paid their last month's salary that was due on 10th November, a day after the government scrapped 500 and 1,000 rupee notes.

About 70 per cent of the 700 workers at the estate don't have bank accounts. For the rest, the nearest bank is at least a five-hour walk or an infrequent bus service.

"The lack of planning by the government has been disastrous. Black money needs to be caught but it's the poor workers that are now without money and are hungry", says K G Joy, a union leader.

The management says it needs to withdraw at least 1.5 lakh rupees a week to pay all its workers in cash. But they are allowed to withdraw only 50,000 rupees per week from their current account as per the government's guidelines.

"Demonetisation has hit us very hard. We don't have any option of paying in cash and most of them don't have bank accounts. Now we are doing all that we can to persuade and help them to get bank accounts. Government has told the district collector to directly pay money, but we are yet to get the details about it," says PK Antony, Manager at Travancore, Rubber & Tea Company.

The daily wagers across the state are facing similar problems since their employers are left with less cash in hand.