Families displaced in 2009 due to the shipbuilding and port project in Kattupalli in Tiruvallur district and a group of concerned citizens on Friday sought the direct intervention of Chief Minister M.K. Stalin over the failure of the companies to provide permanent employment to the families.

A total of 140 fisher families from Kattupalli Kuppam lost their land and direct access to the beach in 2009 when L&T started work on the shipbuilding yard and the port project. As part of the rehabilitation package, they were provided alternative housing more than 2 km away from the beach. The company had agreed to provide permanent job to one person from each affected family.

Despite assurances made in writing in 2009, 2014 and in 2017, the 140 persons have not been offered permanent jobs. They continued to work on contract for a poor salary. Meanwhile, the port had been acquired by the Adani group.

D. Anith Kumar, one of the affected workers, said all of them underwent training and were given a variety of jobs, including welding, fitting, crane operation and data entry. “We were paid a meagre salary initially. Now, we get around ₹16,000 a month. However, permanent workers doing the same jobs get thrice our salary with all other benefits,” he said.

The workers have been on strike without pay since February demanding permanent employment. They said that several rounds of negotiations with the company, the Tiruvallur district administration and the Tamil Nadu Industrial Development Corporation (TIDCO) failed as their demand for permanent employment had been rejected.

Pointing out that a cooperative society of the workers was formed in 2014 at the insistence of the company and the government, advocate Ramapriya Gopalakrishnan said the workers were employed through this society. She said this was used o exploit the workers and keep them on contract.

Nityanand Jayaraman of the Chennai Solidarity Group said that while the fishing community kept its promise by ceding land, the government and the companies had betrayed them.

Musician T.M. Krishna said that while economic development was cited as the reason for implementing environmentally harmful projects, Kattupalli Kuppam was a case where the local community suffered without seeing the promised development. “If the present ruling dispensation is actually a government with a difference, then that difference should be seen in action now,” he said.

Among those who have signed the letter to the Chief Minister are D. Hariparanthaman, retired Judge of Madras High Court; V. Vasanthi Devi, former Vice-Chancellor of Manonmaniam Sundaranar University; and M.G. Devasahayam, retired IAS officer. L&T did not respond to The Hindu ‘s efforts to get its views on the matter.

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