RPC social welfare programmes invigorate enhanced worker lifestyles

Talk of worker welfare, talk of worker housing, talk of the Plantations, usually preconception is a forgotten group of people in an assumed situation of captivity relegated to some forgotten limbo of servility. That was what it was? Maybe maybe not. But pan into its present day and age. This is what you will see.

Lets assume you drive on the Colombo, Hatton road; first class road, by the way, and you enter the Ginigathhena Pass. That entry point takes you to real Tea country. You journey to the Hatton border and beyond and an unfolding kaleidoscope of manicured tea- land orderliness delivers, literally, scenic natural beauty with every bend on the road.

What follows is not about natural beauty, but that element of worker welfare welded into the landscape where worker homesteads have now been established and each family have their homes with their garden plots; but its most important phenomenon is that established housing schemes ensure privacy and dignity.

Having said all that, there are yet about 158,000 old, line rooms on the plantations; true; these are, and have been baneful images of plantation workers and their way of life, but there are changes brought to bear on the entire concept of social welfare on the plantations.

New housing now about 20 percent of those old line rooms are just one aspect of social development on the plantations. Doubtless a long way to go to have every family live in their own house, but things are happening.

We have examples of two Plantations where worker welfare has taken on new meaning. Talawakelle estate in the Talawakelle mountain range, managed by Talawakelle Plantations Limited, and Matakelle Estate, skirting the Tea Research institute, also in Talawakelle; managed by Maskeliya Plantations limited.

Talawakelle has a resident population of about 3365 souls; 651 of them workers. The estate is divided into administrative Divisions each with its child development center. Child development is now an established priority and emphasis on child care facilities could match any nursery school located in most urban centres.

Nutrition, organized educational recreation, and more so children are constantly under care of a trained care giver who ensures safety of infants and toddlers till they are old enough to go to school. Parents therefore attend their daily work routine confident their children are well cared for.

Maskeliya Plantations Limited manage 18 Plantations and have invested about Rs. 138 million over the years, on welfare activities on their estates, we are informed.

Talawakelle housing schemes now have 92 new homesteads built, and families in residence have already experienced new life styles and added on confidence to their bearing.

General Manager Human Resources and Quality Management Development, and also Visiting Agent in the company, Theja Dharamaratne, said health services in estates managed by his company also concentrated on educating worker’s children. He said seven youngsters had entered university with financial assistance from the company.

It is now not surprising that they have their land telephones, mobile phones, TV sets and those with big city influences, fridges, and usual family accoutrements one sees in urban locations.

Housing and social development on the plantations is in continuous development through interventions of the Plantation Human Development Trust (PHTD) ( The Trust), and the NHDA.

Matakelle Estate too has seen similar welfare development procedures in place.

As done on most Estates, because pregnant mothers are sent in time to Government hospitals for maternity. The Health department ensured maternal deaths are now nearly not the social problem it was. So too infant mortality. Infant mortality which was 100 per 1000 births on Estates early 1980s, is now below the national average of 15 per 1000 births.

These are good pointers that worker welfare is an ongoing phenomenon eventually to be in sync with any national average.

Maternity wards built on Estates are now maternity clinics, he said, and serve health needs of workers.

Both these Estates have trained health personnel who ensure worker welfare is constantly reviewed and improved.

All welfare facilities and medical needs are provided free and benefits and do not in any way burden workers .

Social Welfare and worker development has come a long way. The question could be asked if privatization had its salutary impact on worker development socially.

Feed back is that such has had positive responses.

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