25September2018

Andaman Chronicle

The Daily Diary of the Islands

Opinion

Plight of ANIFPDCL employees-The inside story

By Dr. Dinesh

All the political parties as well as the administrators of Andaman & Nicobar Islands are lamenting about the lack of employment potential inherent in these islands for years together without impacting any positives. Had there been any visionary approach with missionary zeal, the situation would have been much different by this time. The two areas of major employment presently available are tourism and fisheries. While the former is made use of by the unemployed with little investment while it requires considerably higher investment to venture into the fisheries sector, which can hardly be afforded to by many.

The scenario till the beginning of 90s was different when we had timber based industries like Andaman Timber Industries (ATI), WIMCO and Kitply Industries etc which were providing employment to the local populace. Unfortunately all these factories had its natural death due to the policy change of the Government of India in timber extraction activities.

The Forest Corporations were established in all the States and Union Territories with the clear mandate of commercial exploitation of mature and over mature trees that would have been otherwise subjected to natural decay in the forest. It had other objectives too such as employment generation etc. ANIFPDCL was thus formed in these islands too and it has been entrusted with extraction of timber from Little Andaman and identified areas of North Andaman.

It also raised Red Oil Palm Plantations in Little Andaman and later on added Palm Oil extraction unit to produce Crude Palm Oil. Altogether ANIFPDCL had been achieving the set objectives and achieved the status of ‘Mini Ratna’ in 1997.Apart from being one of the largest employment providers, it had been contributing considerably to the national exchequer too.

The abrupt change in the policy of the Government of India in the matter of forest conservation, the timber extraction activity of ANIFPDCL was stopped catapulting its hitherto vibrant financial health to anaemic condition. It exhausted its surplus savings and subjected itself to scrap the bottom of the barrel. The employees were not getting salaries for months together. Attention of the authorities was drawn into the serious situation and various committees were formed to suggest ways and means to restore the vibrancy of ANIFPDCL. Pending final decision on its fate funds were released to make payment of salary and wages of the employees annually. The employees were however, not allowed the benefit of intervening pay scale revisions and they have been sustaining on the pre-revised wage/pay structure unlike their contemporaries in government departments.

The proposals to wind up ANIFPDCL made by various Committees constituted time and again were not accepted by different agencies at different time, the latest being A&N Administration. While seeking opinion on the proposal for phased closure, the A&N Administration furnished their decision to take over the Corporation transferring the ownership from MoE&F. The proposal was accepted by the Government of India and fresh Cabinet Note was prepared based on the proposals submitted by the A&N Administration, which is taking, considerably long time to hand over the reins to the Administration, i.e. w.e.f 1st April 2014. The finalised Cabinet Note was sent to A&N Administration and also among other government agencies, more than fours moths back for comments. While all other departments have furnished their positive comments, the same from the Administration has been kept pending for no plausible reasons all these days. Reminders from the Ministry of Home and the MoE&F have been received despite which the comments have been prolonged at the bureaucracy.

Now that it is known that the A&N Administration has turned volte face and it is learnt that the comments contains proposal for virtual winding up of ANIFPDCL. Considering that it is not a viable entity, perhaps only looking at its poor performance during its period of crisis/uncertainty of continuance. Moreover it is also understood that in the revival proposal for ANIFPDCL, the A&N Admn. Surprisingly has not included the commercial forestry activities, the very purpose for which this Corporation has come to existence. In fact, the MHA, MoE&F and the A&N Admn. Had earlier committed to entrust all the commercial forestry activities to the ANIFPDCL and thus the Department of Forests was declared as ‘service department’. This was also included in the Action Taken Report (ATR) submitted by the A&N Admn. To the Hon’ble Apex Court.  The employees of ANIFPDCL are living without salary/wages from Sept.  2013 for the reason that the Ministry has emphatically pitted it with the finalisation of Cabinet proposal.There has been natural accretion in the number of employees of the Corporation these years.

It also had to withstand the vagaries of dreaded Tsunami in 2004 when it lost many of its employees. All apart; there have been untimely deaths of employees too.

Decimation of ANIFPDCL by its winding up will not only cause its primary impact of economic activities of islands like Little Andaman, which has been pivoted around the salary/wages of the employees of the Corporation. It will leave a large bunch of unemployed people, who are demographically disadvantaged to seek further employment elsewhere with all other social evils to follow.

 

Having decided to run A&NIFPDCL with renewed mandate by the Administration duly taking over its ownership and also having fixed the date of transfer of ownership, now it is for the Administration to return the Cabinet Note with only positive comments. It is more important that finalising the Cabinet Note is directly interlinked with release of further funds to payment of salary and wages of the employees of the Corporation, who have been basking in the hope of getting their salary/wages immediately. The sky rocketing prices of essential commodities, children’s education, managing family has become a nightmare. The Hon’ble Lt. Governor, who has exhibited his prowess in containing the adverse situations with his visionary skill as a brave soldier of the country, needs to adopt a pragmatic approach in this matter, and the anguish and agony of the employees of ANIFPDCL.

  • Written by Denis Giles