Hope Of Repatriates
By K A Shaji/
Mangalore and Kollam
23 June, 2007
is back in demand again. With the international market picking up, happiness
is back in the faces of scores of Tamil repatriates from Sri Lanka,
who have been rehabilitated in rubber plantations located at Punalur
in Kerala and Dakshina Kannada in Karnataka. Life is more hassle free
for these repatriates while their counterparts in the home state of
Tamil Nadu are struggling to survive in loss making tea plantations.
Now it seems the rubber wins where the tea failed.
According to M.Mahalingam,
a repatriate rubber plantation worker in Puttur in Dakshina Kannada,
there was no rubber cultivation in the region before the arrival of
the repatriates. The area had found a place in the world map of rubber
growers during the sixties and that was the story of two countries.
According to the Sirimavomavo
Bandaranayake –Lal Bahadir Shastri Pact of 1964, India had to
re-settle 5, 25,000 Sri Lankan repatriates belonging to 1, 50,000 families
in 15 years. Of these 22,000 were trained only in working in rubber
plantations. That is why the government thought of rehabilitative rubber
plantations specially raised for them.
On their part, the Sri Lankan
Tamil repatriates took it as a challenge and converted what were once
dense deciduous forests in Dakshina Kannada into a thriving rubber growing
area. They brought nearly 2,000 hectares of land under rubber growing
areas in 10 years from 1965.
In the spirit of the pact
between Sri Lanka and India, the Union Government had directed the State
Government to bring 3,200 hectares of land under rubber cultivation
at a cost of Rs. 2.75 crores. This was followed by the State Government's
initiative of brining 2,000 hectares under rubber cultivation again
in 1971 at a cost of Rs. 3.64 crores.
As rubber was cultivated
for the first time in Karnataka and the resultant lack of technology
to extract maximum latex, the State Government found over 1,040 hectares
of land unviable for cultivation as well as the product un-economical.
The State was left with no alternative but to replant 800 hectares of
land with new improved varieties in phases. It planted firewood varieties
in the rest of the land.
This made rubber plantations
to restricted only to Puttur and Sullia with 4,596 hectares of land
consisting of 11, 07,882 rubber trees till 2003. The development and
management of rubber plantations has been taken over by the Karantaka
Forest Development Corporation in due course.
According to the corporation
records, there are 1,960 rubber-tappers gainfully employed in the rubber
plantations and 95 per cent of them are of Sri Lankan Tamil origins.
Apart from the government-owned
rubber plantations, the district had 3,900 hectares of private plantations
in smallholdings spread over Sullia, Puttur and Kundapur taluks (now
in Udupi district). They also employ Tamil repatriates, who are experts
in the profession.
The Kerala initiative for
Tamil repatriates, Rehabilitation Plantations Limited at Punalur in
Kollam district, is a big success. It is the first public sector plantation
company in the country which bagged ISO 9002 certificate.
It was started as a joint
venture of Central and State governments in 1972 for the settlement
of Sri Lankan repatriates, who opted Kerala for rehabilitation. The
authorised share capital of the company is Rs.350.00 lakhs and the paid
up capital is Rs.339.27 lakhs. The share capital contribution of Government
of India is 40% and remaining 60% was contributed by Government of Kerala.
The Company has settled
700 repatriate families from Sri Lanka. Two Members from each family
are provided with employment in its two big plantations. At present
the company employs to 1300 workers, 185 staff members and 32 officers.
So far the company has paid Rs. 28 crores towards Agricultural Income
Tax to Government of Kerala and Rs. 6 crores towards Central Income
Tax. The company has been paying dividend to its shareholders since
1985-86. Rs. 3.6 crores has been paid to Government of Kerala and Rs.
2.36 crores has been paid to Government of India towards dividend till
date which is almost double the share capital. The earning per share
of the company is 472.
Over 850 workers are engaged
in tapping and collection of fresh latex. Expert panel protection and
use of rainguard ensure regular yield and uninterrupted supply to customers
even during rainy season. The company processes about 2300 MTs of Centrifuged
latex conforming to BIS specifications in its own factory.
After imported rubber started
arriving in India, the prices of the local variety came down to Rs.
20 from Rs. 60 plunging the rubber plantations into highly unviable
propositions. But there is a visble improvement in rubber prices now.
There is good demand from international market.
The decision of Union Ministry
of Commerce to allow State Trading Corporation to purchase 20,000 tonnes
of rubber every year from the rehabilitated plantations for government
rubber factories also started showing results.
But the real high would
come only when rubber could be used as an additive for laying roads
to provide better grip and longevity as per the recommendations of the
Road Construction Research wing of the National Highways Authority of
India. But research activities in this connection might take a while
to arrive at a conclusion.
(This article is part of
a media fellowship awarded by National Foundation for India)
Share Your Insights
it! And spread the word!
Here is a unique chance to help this article to be read by thousands
of people more. You just Digg it, and it will appear in the home page
of Digg.com and thousands more will read it. Digg is nothing but an
vote, the article with most votes will go to the top of the page. So,
as you read just give a digg and help thousands more to read this article.