Anith Kumar is tired of the 12-year-long status quo. Back in 2009, Anith’s seaside village Kattupalli Kuppam in Tamil Nadu’s Pulicat region was displaced to make way for the ambitious L&T shipyard. Over 500 residents including families had to give up their settlements and rehabilitate to an alternate location 2 km from their original location. In exchange, the residents had demanded that L&T offer permanent jobs to some of the village’s residents. The company hired unskilled labour from the village on a contract basis. However, the workers still remain on contract, and allege that the company has not kept up its word.
On Monday, hundreds of residents from Kattupalli Kuppam staged a road and sea block protest, demanding that Adani-L&T shipyard make their jobs permanent.
“We have been raising this issue every three years for the past 12 years. The company's HR department says their policy is such that they cannot induct us into their payroll. However, they have not given an explanation,” Anith tells TNM.
The protesters have laid out basic demands including a salary hike from their current monthly wage of Rs 15,251. Out of 140 workers, 50 works in the shipyard and the rest are split between the ship building services and the L&T Modular Fabrication Facility which deals with Hydrocarbon engineering.
The workers have also demanded that they be given all benefits extended to other employees of the shipyard.
“In February 2021, we had staged a hunger strike demanding permanent jobs. This protest ended after the Human Resource personnel of L&T, Adani and the District Revenue Officer and Collector intervened and promised to find a solution to the issue. However, the status quo still remains,” Anith adds.
The demands for permanent employment is one among multiple issues faced by the people of Pulicat. Residents of the villages here have been at loggerheads with the Adani - L&T port ever since the latter decided to expand the capacity of the port to 2472.85 hectares by reclaiming 796.15 hectares of land from the sea following dredging. This would lead to loss of livelihood for the fishers, most of whom survive on fishing in the water where marine life thrives.
“If the port expands, our residents might be displaced once again. We gained nothing back in 2009 when the district authorities and the company signed a Government Order with us to rehabilitate the village. Our salaries have not increased, our jobs have not been made permanent. Why must we move again?” Anith asks.
Tensions were on the rise again after it was revealed that the Adani Group, which has a 97% stake in the port, wrote to the National Hydrographic Office asking for the waters around the port to be declared a ‘No Fishing Zone’.
The letter written by the Adani Group was dated August 26, 2019, one year after they purchased majority stake in the port. The letter argues that ‘fishing boats and nets pose a serious security concern and safety hazard to the ships’.
The fishers’ panchayat of Kattupalli Kuppam has also written an open letter appealing to all political parties to speak up on the issue as it is a matter of their livelihood.