Newindpress, 4th May, 2008
BHAWANIPATNA: The present Warehousing Corporation godown near Raisinghpur, on the outskirts of Bhawanipatna, earlier housed Manikesari Powerloom from 1989 to 2001. The place is still known as powerloom area.In 1989, the powerloom was set up by Spinfed with 150 powerlooms, but in 2001, it was wound up and was taken over by the State Warehousing Corporation for construction of a godown and this was done after clearance of Orissa State Finance Corporation dues. Amidst all this, the powerloom workers who opted for voluntary retirement (VRS), were forgotten.Poor management, lack of support by Spinfed and marketing problem led to financial crisis and the powerloom was closed down and within an overnight, 106 regular workers were rendered jobless.Negotiations were carried out between employees and Spinfed and VRS was offered to them. As per VRS benefits, ex gratia payment at the rate of 21 days’ salary besides the original salary amount with DA, gratuity, employees provident fund, ESI and accumulated unutilised leave were offered to them.But as against net payable amount of Rs 1,34,83,000 only Rs 12,47,694 was paid and the workers were disengaged from February 2001 with an assurance to get the rest of the amount in three monthly installments.But the balance amount is yet to be paid even after seven years of closure. Within these seven years, six workers have died without getting their legal dues.In 2003, the Regional Provident Fund Commissioner sent a notice to the SWC asking as to why it shall not be liable to pay the dues of Manikeswari powerloom. Even this question has not yielded any answer so far.Harassed, the workers have now decided to fight a legal battle against the powerloom management and launch an agitation if required. Kunti Dhangadamajhi, an ex-employee of Manikeswari Powerloom and also the president of former Employees Association of Manikeswari Powerloom, said, “Workers had agreed for VRS not knowing the fact that they would be subjected to exploitation and denied their dues.”She told that several times, officials of Assistant Director (Textiles) in Bhawanipatna and Spinfed officials have been approached for settlement of the dues but in vain.The workers threatened to launch hunger strike in front of Spinfed office in Bhubaneswar unless the dues are cleared this month.