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Unregistered salt workers may lose aid

Only 8,465 workers who enrolled in the welfare board will get the relief amount as per GO

Unregistered salt workers may lose aid

Representative image

CHENNAI: A 52-year-old saltpan worker, Bhuvaneswaran, of Mudukakadu village in Thoothukudi district lost his livelihood following the torrential rain. He also lost his belongings as his mud house collapsed in the unprecedented rain, leaving him in a state of bother. However, he stands no chance to avail relief measures from the welfare board.

Bhuvaneswaran, who has been working in saltpan for nearly three decades, was among the 80 per cent of the saltpan workers in southern districts who are not in a position to receive the financial relief as they are not registered in the welfare board for the salt pan workers.

“I lost everything, my house and job, in the flood. The financial support from the welfare board will be helpful for workers like me, but I have no chance of getting the aid,” bemoaned Bhuvaneswaran.

Though Tamil Nadu is the first state in the country to constitute an exclusive welfare board for saltpan workers, it is yet to bring workers in its fold. It was evident in distributing the relief measures to the workers in the aftermath of the heavy downpour on December 17 and December 18. The flood, triggered by the torrential rain, washed away several tonnes of salt in 22,000 acres of saltpans along the 80 km stretch of seashore from Kayalpattinam to Vembar in Thoothukudi. It also jeopardised the livelihood of 50,000 odd saltpan workers. Similar situation prevails in Tirunelveli too.

The state announced Rs 3,000 for flood relief exclusively for the saltpan workers. This in addition to the financial aid of Rs 5,000 for the non-seasonal period of October, November and December. However, as many as 8,465 saltpan workers, who are registered with the welfare board, can only receive the aid, according to government order.

The majority of the workers, accounting for more than 80 per cent of the workforce in the sector, are yet to be registered with the board. “Less than 10 per cent to 15 per cent of the workers are registered with the welfare board. It will deny the financial aid and other benefits to a large section of the workers at this time of natural calamity. The government should conduct special drive at the worksites to facilitate them to enroll in the board,” said M Krishnamoorthy of Unorganised Workers Federation. The government should mandate registration of the workers in the welfare board. Meanwhile, it should do away with the practice of online registration. “Online registration is posing multiple challenges for the workers. Since many of them did not have mobile phones, the OTP generated registration process is serving as a stumbling block. Apart from this, uploading documents like Aadhaar and mismatch on date of birth in the documents is another major problem in registering many workers in the board,” said Rama Lakshmi, a worker.

When contacted, a senior Labour department official said that the department would explore options, including conducting special camps, to improve the enrolment of workers. Steps will be taken to help them avail relief, the official added.

Shanmugha Sundaram J
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