Rath Yatra: Concerns flagged over unavailability of ropes for chariots

Puri: Flagging concerns over smooth conduct of Rath Yatra, Special Branch SP sought immediate intervention of the Puri SP today after production of ropes to be used for pulling the chariots were stopped by striking workers of the coir board.

According to a letter by the SP, Special Branch, the employees of Puri District Unit Coir Board Sangha have been on a cease-work stir at the office of Birapratappur Coir Factory since June 21 and stopped preparation of the ropes required for the Rath Yatra.

The agitating employees are demanding immediate release of salary and allied benefits as per the recommendations of the 7th Pay Commission, the letter stated.

It is learnt that the staff of the coir factory are presently drawing a ‘meagre’ salary ranging between Rs 3000 and Rs 7000, which they state as insufficient to sustain their livelihood.

The letter also stated that the agitators have complained that if their demands are not fulfilled, they would take extreme steps and resort to mass ‘self immolation.’

Asked about the matter, Odisha Cooperative Coir Nigam Sangha president, Muktikanta Mohapatra expressed shock over the issue and blamed the administration. “Employees of the Odisha Coir Nigam Sangha are still drawing salary on the basis of the 4th Pay Commission recommendations which is 10 times lesser than the current salary of government employees. The employees had cited their concerns many a times before, but the administration is still callous over the issue.”

On the other hand, MSME Minister Prafulla Samal said that he acknowledges that their protests are genuine. “I understand that the employees are underpaid and so we are ready for a dialogue to sort out their urgent concerns. However, they must not stop work since their rope quality is very good and ever since we have been preparing ropes in our state, there have been negligible incidents of snapping. But let me be clear that their protests will not affect Rath Yatra as we already have 12 ropes at our disposal and the remaining amount can be easily prepared.”

It is pertinent to note here that the Odisha Coir Nigam factory at Birapratappur in Puri district not only supplies ropes used during the car festival in Puri but also in Baripada, Bhubaneswar, Nilagiri, Balasore, Kendrapara, Khurda, ISKCON & KIIT in Bhubaneswar and several other places.

Every year, the coir nigam provides 18 long pieces of ropes out of which 14 are used for dragging chariots while 4 others are used for cordoning off the crowd during the festival.