Traditional industries like coir, cashew and textiles,which are handled by veteran trade unionists in the Pinarayi Vijayan-led LDF Government are poised on the cusp of mechanisation on a hitherto unseen scale.
Finance Minister Dr Thomas Isaac, who also holds the coir portfolio, said the industry is poised for large-scale industrialisation.
“New technologies will be encouraged and the government will provide subsidy to facilitate private players who make large-scale investments,” he had said recently.
According to Dr Isaac, the large-scale mechanisation was the need of the hour as the small-scale mechanisation would not help the sector in the long run.
The economist-turned-politico has even come up with income support schemes to compensate for the job losses in the sector that may ensue post-mechanisation.In fact, the coir industry provides employment to more than four lakh people,majority of whom are women.
Similarly, the cashew industry based at Kollam employs close to three lakh people. Minister for Cashew J Mercykutty Amma, who has a trade union background, is in favour of partial automation at the cashew factory under the Kerala State Cashew Development Corporation (KSCDC) at Kottiyam in Kollam.
The factory with a yearly processing capacity of 25,000 metric tonne was proposed as a way to tide over the losses incurred by the KSCDC. “The factory makes economic sense for the KSCDC. But it may require only a few workers.” said a senior official.
The minister also acknowledged the economic benefits but she said the plan would not be considered as it was against policies of CPM. “We are against total automation. Instead we are interested in building the traditional ‘Brand Kollam’ in the cashew sector. But mechanisation is needed in certain areas such as cutting and peeling since not many employees are interested.” said Mercykutty Amma.
Industries Minister A C Moideen, who will be unveiling the state’s Industrial Policy with the focus on improving the investment climate, said Kerala needed mechanisation that supported employees in production. He agreed to infuse more funds into the textile mills’ sector to revive it. Part of the funds would go into mill mechanisation at various stages of completion.
Meanwhile, M P Sukumaran Nair, chairman of public sector Restructuring and Internal Audit Board (RIAB), pointed out that the traditional industries were often found lacking in product innovation, branding and the ability to compete in the open market. Besides,their traditional employee base was fast ageing and the new generation was not interested in hard labour.