Farmers and workers of certain unorganised sectors in Tamil Nadu have been protesting and submitting memorandums with the state government demanding compensation for the loss suffered during the recent heavy rainfall.
The Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) has demanded a yearly interim rain relief of Rs 5,000 for workers in sectors directly affected by the rains, especially weavers and Appalam (poppadom) makers, who want to be compensated like fishermen when they are not allowed to enter the sea during bad weather.
Criticising the state government for compensating only paddy farmers whose crops were damaged by the heavy rains, farmers associations have sought better compensation for other crops.
APPALAM MAKERS TAKE A HIT
The heavy rains have severely impacted the Appalam industry, which gathered some pace after the onset of COVID-19, washing away the hopes of workers, who rely on sunlight to dry the flattened dough. “They already had no work for more than a month. They are unable to resume work due to moisture and the lack of sunlight,” Muthukumar, secretary, CITU, Kanchipuram district.
“Though heavy rainfall is a yearly concern, it was more intense this year and lasted longer,” Muthukumar added. The Appalam makers union, affiliated to CITU, has demanded a yearly relief of Rs 5,000 and 10 kgs of food grains.
There are more than 100 trademark Appalam brands in Tamil Nadu, like Bindu Appalam, Popular Appalam and Madurai Meenatchi Appalam, who don’t employ workers but only provide flour and get Appalams made through agents. There are more than 5,000 such agents with each employing 10-100 registered Appalam makers, who are paid for the number of bundles they make daily and are not eligible for benefits.
The profession is concentrated in and around Chennai, Kanchipuram and Madurai, providing livelihood to 1 lakh workers. To offset the rising flour rates, which increased from Rs 700 to Rs 1,000 in the past year, the big companies have heavily mechanised Appalam making, resulting in the loss of livelihood of many families dependent on the small-scale industry.
WEAVERS LOSE THEIR LIVELIHOOD
Several thousand weavers in Kanchipuram, Chengelpettu, Tiruppur and other districts have also lost their livelihood due to the rains. Rainwater seeping into houses has inundated the loom pits, soaked the wooden looms and destroyed raw materials. “Many weavers don’t know what to do with stains on woven fabrics,” Muthukumar said.
Every year, weavers are without work for two months due to the dire weather conditions. Due to the increase in the number of non-working days this year, caused by longer and heavy rains, the Tamil Nadu Handloom Weaver Federation has demanded an interim relief of Rs 5,000 every year.
RELIEF FOR ALL CROPS
The All India Kisan Sabha has said that neither a token compensation nor relief for only paddy growers will suffice.
Farmers protest in Tanjore on December 4. Image courtesy: Theekkathir.
Farmers and agriculture workers of sugarcane, banana, tubers and other crops have demanded Rs 10,000 compensation, adequate relief for the death of cattle and the damage to their houses, and also claimed the 2020 insurance amount. They have also requested the implementation of the gold loan waiver announced by the government.