Demonetisation: Kerala estate workers go without pay, owners warn of food crisis

Workers in these sectors are paid their wages in cash, either weekly or monthly, but the abrupt ceiling on withdrawal of money has virtually tied the hands of employers.

Written by Shaju Philip | Thiruvananthapuram | Updated: November 18, 2016 2:35 pm
demonetisation, Reserve Bank, Narendra Modi, Rs 500 1000 notes, currency, ATMs, 100 rupee notes, RBI notification demonetisation, ATM notice, news, latest news, India news, national news The struggling cashew sector employs two lakh workers, many of them belonging to the BPL category. (Photo for Representation)

WITH the currency crunch following demonetisation pushing workers in Kerala’s dairy, cashew and plantation sectors into severe crisis, owners are warning that hundreds of families may have to go without food this weekend.

Workers in these sectors are paid their wages in cash, either weekly or monthly, but the abrupt ceiling on withdrawal of money has virtually tied the hands of employers.

The Kerala Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation (called MILMA), an umbrella society of three milk unions in the state, makes payments to dairy farmers’ societies via bank accounts. These societies, in turn, hand over cash to farmers every 10 days.

WATCH VIDEO: Demonetisation: Here’s How It Affects Kerala Estate Workers

MILMA procures 11 lakh litres of milk a day from about five lakh dairy farmers, at the rate of Rs 30 per litre. Accordingly, MILMA needs Rs 33 crore to pay in a day, and transfers the money into accounts of the 3,000-odd local milk societies through RTGS.

Last week, these societies could not withdraw the money to be paid to farmers due to the ceiling on withdrawal. In Wayanad, one of the largest milk supplying districts in Kerala, 55 dairy farmers’ societies have not paid farmers.

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MILMA chairman P T Gopala Kurup said though dairy farmers have bank accounts, the practice is to give them money. “If we deposit in the bank accounts, it would affect the farmers’ daily activities at the dairy, which in turn would hit milk production. The societies could not pay the farmers last week. The issue would turn worse this week. Let the RBI find a solution,” Kurup said.

Farmers can’t ignore the daily upkeep of cattle or collection of fodder crops, and hence prefer cash instead of money transfers into accounts, which would require them to travel to banks or ATMs.

The struggling cashew sector employs two lakh workers, many of them belonging to the BPL category. Only a few of the 300-odd cashew factories in Kerala paid their workers last week, according to industry sources.

Cashew-processing units, both in government and private sectors, mostly withdraw money from their bank accounts on Fridays and distribute it to their workers the next day. A worker is paid Rs 280 a day.

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Said Babu Oommen, the Managing Director of Kollam-based Alphonsa Cashew Industries, whose firm’s weekly salary bill is around Rs 40 lakh, “We didn’t pay anyone last week. If the RBI does not relax the ceiling on withdrawal, the crisis will turn worse this weekend. I fear workers would go hungry or resort to a revolt. This is apart from the sharp fall in sales of cashew in the wake of currency crisis.”

In the plantation sector, workers are paid salaries on the 10th of every month. With the demonetisation announcement coming on November 8 night, the estate workers are yet to receive even last month’s salary. Besides, they have not been given the weekly allowance, paid every Saturday. Workers have accounts, but the branches are far away from where their live on estates, and so most prefer to take cash.

In the high ranges of Munnar, 15,000-odd estate workers who live up to 40 km away from town are in crisis. In the north Kerala district of Wayanad, another 13,000 workers are facing the same predicament.

Rippon Estates (Wayanad) Manager Prakash P K said estates pay their workers in cash at their field offices. “The ceiling on withdrawal has made us helpless. Workers will miss a day’s work if asked to collect their salary from a bank or ATM. Due the present crisis though, many are planning to move to bank accounts,” said Prakash.

WATCH VIDEO: Miscreants Break Into SBI ATM In Odisha’s Nabarangpur District: Here’s What Happened

Wayanad Estate Workers’ Union secretary K T Balakrishnan also warned of a dire situation if workers did not get their salaries by this week. “No one wants to go to a far-flung ATM to collect salary sacrificing one day’s work and spending on travel fare. The workers are surviving by buying provisions on credit. But that will not last,” said Balakrishnan.

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  1. S
    sunny
    Nov 18, 2016 at 12:23 am
    ache din as promised
    Reply
    1. A
      Anil
      Nov 18, 2016 at 3:54 am
      These Kerala co-operative societies are owned by either the leftists or the congis. And this drama is to force Central govt. to allow these political co-operative societies to accept old notes. A way to convert 30k black money to white.
      Reply
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        A
        Nov 18, 2016 at 1:43 am
        A video appeared in my whatsapp message where an old illlerate lady is accepting payment through digital mode in a remotebplace called Morappur in m district for sake of vegetables ( Payment wallet) When she can do it this high ranking official is finding fault with the action pure politically motivated action
        Reply
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          A
          Nov 18, 2016 at 4:40 am
          In the early four ties and fiftees people from the southern states go to Kolkata and Bombay for their livelihood. Presently wevare seeing people from West Bengal or other north eastern states coming to South for their livelihood.This isvhow the left intellectuals have empowered their poor brothers so that they can be in power.I am not saying Kerala is in that mould. By not resorting to digital transactions the left have kept theirvpeopke even in a highlybliterate state in this condition in order to have a thriving black economy.I understand the Kerala Cooperative Banks are not following the RBI guide lines in their cooperative banks and most of them are controlled by the left.That means what?
          Reply
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            A
            Nov 18, 2016 at 2:39 am
            Kerala cooperative banks have not implemented thevKYC norms from 2006 onwards and s reminder in 2013 is unanswered till date. Which means these insutions are under the control of the black money holders. We havevgreat respect for the hardworking people from Kerala in the gulf but that does not mean thstbthe crooks are totally out of Kerala
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              ashok s
              Nov 18, 2016 at 12:41 am
              Set up task force to educate them use of e wallet and other bank instrument s in their local language . no excuses please . cash system should end or brought to minimum.
              Reply
              1. D
                dd
                Nov 18, 2016 at 12:35 am
                Why only opposition governed states are experiencing this issue?
                Reply
                1. D
                  dd
                  Nov 18, 2016 at 1:43 am
                  CO-Operative societies are under congress and CPIM controlled...They create this kind of panic.
                  Reply
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