With no jobs, contract workers in distress

Tuticorin: **FILE PHOTO** Vedanta's Sterlite Copper unit ,in Tuticorin on Thursday. PTI Photo(PTI5_24_2018_000231B)

Mohan, 42, has been looking for a decent job that would bring him at least half of what he earned at Sterlite Copper plant in Thoothukudi as a contractual employee, but in vain. Jobless since May 2018, Mohan has been struggling to pay a rent of Rs 3,000 per month for his accommodation and his daughter’s school fees after the Vedanta-owned company expressed its inability to accommodate contractual employees following the shutdown of the plant.

“The companies that are ready to take me offer nothing more than Rs 6,000 per month as they say they can pay only that much. The companies openly say they can’t pay on par with Sterlite Copper. I can’t make both ends meet with the meagre amount,” he said.

Trying times

For the last eight months, Mohan’s family has been surviving only on the little savings they had and by borrowing from relatives and money lenders. “The worst part is explaining to the child on why I can’t take her out as I used to when I had a proper job,” Mohan, who was employed in Sterlite through Jaya Engineering Works, said.

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Mohan is just one of the over 2,000 contractual employees who were not absorbed by Sterlite Copper. While many like Mohan are still waiting to find suitable jobs, some have settled for jobs like waiters in restaurants and many have even left the town in search of a better livelihood.

Vasudevan, another former employee, has not been able to pay back loans and instalments for the home appliances that he had bought while working. “The job market is quite bad and there are not enough jobs. What has Thoothukudi achieved by shutting down Sterlite Copper?” he asked.

Gunasekaran has a different story altogether. The young man had bought a tipper in 2017 by availing loan and attached it to Sterlite Copper. Just when Gunasekaran had thought he does not have to work under someone anymore, the plant was closed, and he had no money to repay the dues as his vehicle was lying idle.

Now, he is back driving a lorry. “I had to sell the tipper since I could neither repay the loan nor maintain it without any income. The plant was feeding thousands of people and their families,” Gunasekaran said.

Insider’s views

Karthick, who was working in the Effluent Treatment Plant of Sterlite Copper, rebukes the claims that the pollution emanated from the plant had been the cause for the higher prevalence of cancer and other deadly diseases. “If that is the case, why did not any one of those working here get affected. These theories are baseless and cannot be proved,” he said.

Also read: DH Insight | Constant police presence creates fear in villagers

The young graduate is struggling to pay EMIs for the loan he had availed to build a house. “I have built a house by availing a loan of Rs 8 lakh and within three months of the house warming ceremony, Sterlite was locked up. I am a defaulter now. Who will pay my dues? It is not easy to get a job in the market today and no one is ready to give the salary that I was drawing at Sterlite. Why should I earn less?” he asked.

Tales of lorry owners are not rosy either — Bhaskar of C M Transport says their losses have been heavy as Sterlite Copper used hundreds of lorries to transport its finished goods to other parts of the country.

“There will be some movement both inbound and outbound — but everything has suddenly stopped now. I have been paying EMIs for a few of my vehicles from my pocket and most vehicles are lying idle for 15 to 20 days in a month,” he said.

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With no jobs, contract workers in distress

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