The anti-encroachment drive carried out by the Idukki district administration is making waves in the state politics. On Thursday, Gomathi Augustine, who is the leader of Pembalai Orumai, a women's union that had carried out widespread agitation to ensure rights of women plantation workers, has quit the CPI(M), accusing the party of not working for the workers' welfare.
In a press meet held in Idukki, Gomathi announced that she was quitting CPI(M) and its trade union CITU, for the government was favouring the ‘real estate mafia’, in Idukki and had done little for the plantation workers. Gomathi joined CITU in January last year.
Gomathi’s resignation comes days after Idukki Sub Collector Sriram Venkitaraman launched an anti-encroachment drive in Munnar. CPI(M) Panchayat member and Minister MM Mani protested against this move - and so did Devikulam MLA Rajendran. Rajendran has been under fire for the past few weeks with the opposition accusing him of encroaching government land in Munnar.
In September 2015, the women plantation workers under the aegis of Pembalai Orumai protested against Kannan-Devan Hills Plantations demanding better wages and working conditions for its 4000-odd women employees.
After declaring that she has decided to quit the party, Gomathy added that she would launch a protest demanding that Adivasi and Dalit plantation workers be given land, education and job opportunities.
In 2015, Gomathi was elected from the Nallathanni division to the Devikulam block panchayat, which was seen as a major success for their movement. However, allegations of corruption against her from other members of the group surfaced and Gomathi had even tried to take her own life in November that year.