No wage increase for plantation workers, lack of development might determine voting
Elusive wage increase for plantation workers and failure to tap tourism potential are the major issues in Valparai (Reserved) Assembly constituency, which will see a tough battle for the seat between the AIADMK and the CPI. The alleged failure on the part of the AIADMK to deliver on these fronts will make the going tough for it against the CPI, which has consistently demanded that the wages for the workers be raised.
Valparai, that spreads across a hilly terrain and a sizeable area in the plains in Pollachi, has largely seen parties fielding only outsiders. The constituency has a sizeable population of Kongu Velala Gounders, from the backward communities and from listed communities who are farm and plantation workers.
Tea plantations dominate the economy of the constituency. Because of the low wages compared to their counterparts in Kerala, tea does not bring cheer to the plantation workers.
The workers in neighbouring Kerala get a daily wage of ₹416, whereas the private estates in Tamil Nadu pay ₹343 and the estates of the State-run Tantea pays ₹333. During the MGR Centenary celebrations, Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami promised a wage hike of ₹12.50 for Tantea plantation workers and ₹ 5 for those in the private estates. But, this has not been implemented. Valparai has more than 30,000 plantation workers. Of the total electorate of 2,05,335 voters, 59,000-odd voters are in the hills and more than 1.45 lakh in the plains.
A.T. Jaganathan, a merchant in Valparai, says that in every election parties promise a paddy procurement centre at Anamalai, where paddy cultivation is second to coconut, an engineering college, a fire station and a Regional Transport Office. But the promise has never been kept.
For the last two decades no concrete measure was initiated to tap the tourism potential of this hill town. After much delay, works are progressing towards the finishing stage for a botanical garden and a boat house. The Yatri Nivas for tourists is yet to be made fully functional.
T.M. Mohideen, who runs a hotel at Attakatti, says the wage issue and inordinate delay in tapping tourism potential will be key factors in this election.
While the AIADMK has chosen to field T.K. Amul Kandasamy from Annur, denying the ticket for sitting MLA Kasthuri Vasu, the DMK has given the seat to Communist Party of India, which has fielded its former MLA M. Arumugam.
Denial of ticket to the sitting MLA has resulted in a section of the cadre not extending their co-operation to the AIADMK nominee. There is discontent in the DMK also over the seat being given to the CPI. Till the last minute, there were rumours of Kovai Thangam of Tamil Maanila Congress, which is part of the AIADMK alliance, jumping into the fray as an independent. He had accused party leader G.K. Vasan of betraying him by not getting the seat for him. Valparai has voted Mr. Thangam twice to the Assembly — in 2001 and 2006.
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