Kerala to train workers from other states for rubber tapping

Written by M Sarita Varma | Thiruvananthapuram | Updated: Dec 20 2010, 06:50am hrs
Acute shortage of skilled rubber tappers in Keralahome to over 92% of the countrys rubber plantationshas reached such alarming levels that Rubber Board has decided to bring workers from other parts of the country, by paying even the travel and daily allowances, for a 30-day crash course on rubber tapping.

Consumer industry associations like the Automotive Tyre Makers Association (ATMA) has long been complaining about the shortage of natural rubber in the country, forcing the Rubber Board to come out with this novel idea.

The Board will meet the entire expenses of the trainees for their journey from their native place to Kerala, and will also provide an allowance of Rs 150 a day for each trainee, for food and incidental expenses, said VJ Kurian, chairman, Rubber Board. This special training had to be set in motion immediately, to address manpower shortage, a grave concern in the plantation sector, he said.

Training for the first batch of planters, brought from Orissa, will commence from January 31, 2011 at Tappers Training School at Kothala, Kottayam, the Rubber Board said. Workers with valid electoral identity card will be brought to Kerala, following necessary clearances from the police and medical authorities concerned. After successful completion of training, their service will be allotted to rubber holdings which are already identified.

The Board runs seven tapping schools, which can train 280 workers in two turns. We target to make a battery of trained manpower available to RPS (Rubber Producing Societies) by the next season, says Kurian.

According to planters, the main reason for lack of skilled rubber tappers is because the second-generation of rubber tappers is unwilling to learn the skill.

If there are not enough white-collar jobs, they would rather remain jobless, Sibi Monipally, general secretary, Indian Rubber Growers Association said.

A study by a senior scientist at Rubber Research Institute of India, which looks at the demographic profile of tappers, says that 61% of the present tappers (those in the 40-plus age group) will quit their job in 20 years, without proportionate inflow of new blood to rubber tapping. And this study was made five years ago!

S Mohan Kumar, who undertook the study, said that workers shied away from tapping, not because of poor wages, but reluctance to rigours of physical labour. Male farm labourer in rubber plantation gets at least Rs 125 per day, scalable upwards since the rate is decided in terms of rupees per 100 trees.

Starting at the crack of the dawn, rubber tapping is usually wrapped up by forenoon, leaving the tapper free for other economic activities. Even as countrys rubber consumption rose to 5,36,100 tonne (3% higher than last year) in 2010, regular tapping is, often staggered in far-flung, medium-sized rubber holdings.

Till recently migrant Tamil labour in border districts gave some solace to the labour issue, but recently, they too have been in pursuit of upward social mobility in cities, Josekutty Antony, president, Rubber Nursery-owners Association, said.