Munnar/Thiruvananthapuram, Sep 10: As the ongoing siege of Munnar town by the tea estate workers entered the sixth day Thursday, efforts are on by the government to resolve the issue.
Around 7,000 tea plantation workers attached to the Kannan Devan Hills Plantations Company Private Limited ( KDHP), mostly women, are demanding a 20 per cent bonus besides an increase in their daily wages.
They have blocked movement of traffic in and around Munnar town.Tourism Minister A.P.Anil Kumar said his department was seized of the issue. "This issue was discussed in yesterday's cabinet meeting and two ministers have been asked to sort out the issues. Munnar is certainly a key destination and a hugely popular one and hence, we wish the issue be resolved at the earliest," Kumar told IANS.
Labour Minister Shibhu Baby John held a second round of discussions with the KDHP and the trade union leaders in the capital city on Thursday without arriving at a solution.
"The issue has got other interests also as the workers appear not to listen to their trade union leaders. The KDHP gives bonus based on its profits and they gave more than the prescribed minimum bonus of 8.33 per cent. Also remember after KDHP was formed, these workers also are owners of the company. We have called for a third meeting to be held on Sunday at Kochi," said John.
The have also accused the trade union leaders of joining hands with the employer and ditching them.
S.Rajendran, CPI-M legislator from Munnar assembly constituency said trade union leaders always had to bear the blame from members, so that was nothing new.
"The sad part of it is that, today these workers who are on protest are under the control of some vested interests. Even before the discussions with the management began they took to the streets and this is whye we are worried," said Rajendran.Munnar, is a picturesque hill station placed 1450 metres above sea and is rated as one of the top tourist destinations in Asia.
A group of tourists on visit to Munnar were unhappy since they could not move around. "The workers have laid asiege in and around Munnarn. We are unable to move around as vehicles are being blocked by the protesters," said a tourist who did not want to be named.
There are allegations that the workers are being "controlled by a Tamil group," which first made its presence felt at the height of the Mullaperiyar dam issue when it came out with a demand that parts of Idukki district be hived of to Tamil Nadu.
Around 40 per cent of 1.1 million Idukki population are Tamil speaking people.
Idukki district borders the Tamil Nadu district of Theni and Kambam and the hilly terrain has huge areas of plantation estates where a large number of estate workers originally hail from Tamil Nadu.