Kerala: ITI Limited Employees Contribute to Lunar and Solar Missions, Yet Await Wages for 3 Months
ITI workers protest in Kerala. | special arrangement
The whole country was ecstatic after the successful soft landing of the Vikram in the Chandrayan-3 mission to the Moon. However, amidst the celebrations, a protest by the employees of ITI Limited (formerly Indian Telephone Industries Limited) in Kerala’s Palakkad manufacturing unit has been overlooked. The employees distributed empty covers as a mark of the protest against the non-payment of wages for three months, despite having played a crucial role in the mission.
Similar was the situation on the day of the successful launch of Aditya L1, with the workers holding candlelight protests. The ITI Employees' Union has highlighted the plight of the employees and has sought the attention of the Union Government. The plant in Kanjikode of Palakkad district is one of the five manufacturing units of ITI Limited, a Government of India undertaking under the Department of Telecommunications.
The unit has 150 permanent officers and engineers, 30 non-officers, and more than 120 engineers and technicians on contract. The union has raised demands for paying the employees promptly each month and has urged for permanent job positions.
‘HIGH RECOGNITION AND NO WAGES’
The ITI Limited, independent India’s first PSU has been supplying parts to the launch vehicles and payloads of the ISRO since 2012 from its Kanjikode manufacturing plant. The plant is also the highest profit-making unit among the five other units: one in Bengaluru, Karnataka; in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir; in Naini, Rae Bareli, and Mankapur, Uttar Pradesh.
"The Kanjikode plant has supplied Remote Mount Safe Arms (RMSA) and Head Mount Safe Arms (HMSA), two crucial elements in the lander vehicle for Chandrayaan-3. Through these missions, the country has achieved a significant milestone in space research. However, the plight of the employees remains unaddressed," said S.B. Raju, President of the ITI Employees’ Union, speaking to NewsClick.
The employees were promised payment before the Onam festival, but nothing has materialised so far. Dismayed by the prolonged delay and in contrast to the distribution of sweets to celebrate the successful soft landing on the Moon, the employees distributed empty envelopes, symbolising their long wait for their wages.
Besides supplying components and packages to space missions, the organisation has executed the National Population Register for the Union Home Ministry, the Socio-Economic & Caste Census (SECC) for the Union Ministry of Rural Development, smart card manufacturing, and digitisation of Calicut and Kannur Universities, among several other projects.
“Despite being a profit-making unit, the employees have not been paid for three months now. The lack of working capital is hampering the development of the plant and the employees. This cannot continue as the employees are distraught with the approach of the management,” added Raju.
The ISRO has placed orders for the manufacturing of 200 HSMA units required for the next mission. Despite getting orders from the Union and different state government organisations including defence, telecom, education, space, and rural development, the unit has been deprived of financial packages for revival from the Union government.
KERALA TAKES PRIDE IN PSUs
In the meantime, Kerala has taken pride in playing a vital role in supplying crucial units for the Chandrayaan-3 and Aditya L1 missions through the participation of state-owned Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs).
The minister for industries, P Rajeev, said that Keltron, Kerala Minerals and Metals Limited (KMML), and Steel and Industrial Forgings Limited (SIFL) have played a role in supplying parts for the Moon mission.
Keltron, once loss-making emerged from the hiatus owing to the efforts of the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government and has supplied 41 electronic modules for the mission. The other PSUs supplied sponge alloys, titanium and aluminium forgings, and titanium sponge metals.
For the country’s first mission to study Sun, Aditya-L1, Keltron, SIDL, Travancore Cochin Chemicals, and Kerala Automobiles Limited (KAL) have supplied parts. Writing on Facebook, Rajeev noted that the 38 electronic modules manufactured by Keltron were used in the PSLV-C57 launch vehicle.
The TCC has supplied 150 metric tonnes of chlorate crystals used for the mission. Another state-owned PSU, KAL, has supplied the components for the satellite separation system of the launch vehicle.
Even as the state PSUs are strengthened by the state government, the central PSUs in Kerala including BEML and ITI Limited are witnessing protests of various forms against attempts at privatisation, non-payment of wages, and lack of financial packages to revive the organisations.
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