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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2679

Estate workers fight against to eliminate use of alcohol

Sunil C. Perera in Colombo

Colombo, 12 June, ( Forty Five year old married estate woman A.Logamma who was addicted to alcohol since her 19 yrs says alcohol is a dangerous family burner. Logamma who resides at Sirinivasa Watta in Kosgama said she spent Rs.150.00 [over 1 US$] per day for alcohol. "I have friends in nearby villages .They asked me to enjoy alcohol. One day I used alcohol with them," she said.

Remembering her memories of the past, she lamented her foolish decisions and experiences on the use of alcohol and said her daily wage was low but she used ten rupees to drink alcohol . "I took it as a medicine. Because I was a hard worker. Every day I used alcohol to improve my fitness. I had quarrels with my husband and children due to my alcohol addiction. I was neglected by them.

Four months ago Sirinivasa Estate and the Plantation Human Development Trust [PHDT] launched prevention of Alcohol project with the support of the Ministry of Estate Infrastructure .It was initiated by the Minister of estate Infrastructure Arumugam Thondaman. The PHDT works with the estate to find reliable information on alcohol usage in the estate .The PHDT sources said this projects aims were for improved health standards of workers, increased labor attendance at work , increased worker-family income and savings. Also less conflicts between workers and management, improved social status of workers. Women workers/groups more sensitized on gender and development issues and reduced gender violence at household level.

"We conducted a survey in this matter, said A.M.A.S. Danasekara , Manager of the estate .

According to the survey conducted by the Welfare Officer of the estate Kanthi Peiris out of 242 workers 65 percent of them were addicted to alcohol.

The estate has launched its prevention programme with the help of volunteers who helped to discuss with the alcohol addicts.

"Most of workers showed a positive response, but few others have shown a negative response. .We have selected a few workers who were heavily addicted to alcohol and sent them for a mental and physical residential workshop carried out by the Caritas Seth – a NGO of the area. Logamma who also refused to attend this workshop , but later she drank and went for the workshop, said Kanthi Peiris , welfare officer of the estate.

"We have talk shops and workshops daily. They conducted physical exercise sessions at the five day workshop, said Logamma who completely gave up consumption of alcohol after the five day work shop.

According to Logamma now she lives with her husband and the children without any trouble. "I do not need alcohol to live or improve my fitness. I also gave up connection with the village friends who led me to drink, she said.

"I used half of my monthly wage to drink. I managed an illicit brewery with the help of village friends who brew Kassippu [Leading illicit alcohol in Sri Lanka], said twenty nine year old Govindharajah Ganesh . I spent Rs.300 daily for illicit brew, he said.

Ganesh was an alcohol addict since his 8th birthday .He said the trainers of the Prevention of Alcohol Project have briefed side effects of the alcohol.

"Most of other estate workers who consume alcohol have warned and said the trainers of the workshop would inject medicine to me. However they did not inject anything but explained effects of the alcohol. I gave up use of alcohol from last few months .Now I could manage my family without getting loans, he explained.

Another estate worker and ex-alcohol addict G.Yogaratnam said now he supports government effort to eliminate alcohol from the society. The estate uses our children to force us to stop usage of alcohol, he said.

Asian Tribune also spoke to volunteers of the estates about this project. Nadaraja Sivanadan who works as a watcher of the Sunderland Estate Eheliyagoda also supports this project as a volunteer said the estate uses Children's society to explain affects of the usage of alcohol. They hold a poster campaign a drama display and talk shops to aware their parents on the prevention of alcohol from the estate. This is a success story which could eliminate alcohol form their estate.

"We could increase our productivity specially tapping out of the estate, said Manager of the Sunderland Estate K.M.C.Prasan.

Earlier most of alcohol addicts robbed estate properties specially rubber products .They used money to buy alcohol, he said.

"At present estate Management Companies could eliminate Kassipu menace from their respective estates, said Maoj Udugampola , Manager of Pussella Estate , Eheliyagoda.

He said around 300 workers were alcohol addicted .However around 35 percent of this group gave up their traditional brew and now work with the estate to improve their family life.

"I am constructing a house after stopping the consumption of alcohol, said S.Wijayakumar, an estate worker of the Pussella Estate. National Housing Development Authority and the Plantation Development Trust have assisted me to construct the house, he said.

According to the estate management companies the PHDT and the Estate Management Companies support estate workers to become house owners.

"We provide lands for them and the rest part would be assisted by the management companies and the PHDT , he said.

Asian Tribune met Regional Director of the Plantation Human Development Trust Yajith de Silva at his highly active office complex at Kuruwita, Ratnapura . He said according to their Happy Family Concept launched by the Col;Ranjith Ellegala , CEO of the PHDT, is an important management tool for the estates.

It could minimize use of alcohol among workers, but some of illicit brewers still threaten estate workers to use their alcohol, he said.

According to the recent surveys conducted by the PHDT Alcoholism on estates is a recognized social problem, the impact of which will not only be on the individual, but also on his family, the community in which he lives and also on the Management.

Productivity on the estate can be effected due to poor attendance and poor performance.

Although the income of the worker maybe satisfactory, there can be a vicious cycle of poverty due to this. Gender issues like domestic violence can also be a serious problem. The main groups who should be provided with the appropriate information and knowledge on the various aspects of alcoholism with special reference to its detrimental affects would be those who are directly involved in consumption of alcohol like youth, adults, both workers & non-workers and also others who could influence their behavior like children, Management, Union Leaders and other peers on estates as well as the families themselves. Gender issues like domestic violence also effect mainly females.

- Asian Tribune -

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