Indian estate workers seek govt intervention to settle their housing woes

Photo courtesy of Tamil Nesan

SHAH ALAM, Dec 18 – A group of former and current Indian rubber and oil palm plantation workers, who have been working and living in temporary quarters at their estates in the Ulu Selangor and Batang Berjuntai areas are seeking the intervention of the Unity Government to resolve their long, outstanding housing woes.

A report by Tamil Nesan’s Sundar Marathamuthu said some of these workers who have reached the age of 60 had been recently given eviction notice to vacate their quarters by 14 days.

According to the report, some of these estate workers from Ladang Tegar and four other estates including one in Batang Berjuntai have been working and living in their estates almost all their lives and they should have been allocated permanent housing in the areas, rather than turning them out when they reach the age of 60.

“These are the people, who are usually up and working around 4 am to do rubber tapping and other plantation work that have enriched the owners of the plantations but their basic needs like housing has not been met properly by the owners,” according to Parti Socialis Malaysia’s central committee member Arulchelvan.

Speaking at a press conference attended by Tamil news outlets, Arulchelvan said the perennial problem of decent housing for estate workers who have been putting in long years of service should be resolved as soon as possible as it affects not only the five estates in question today but many throughout the country.

He said earlier, corporate magnate Tan Sri Vincent Tan had sold off the estate, known by a different name previously to Tagar Properties. However, he had allocated 20 acres of land free for the building of houses for the estate workers, Arulchelvan said.

Tagar Properties is now claiming that the workers are “squatters” and they had no legal rights to continue to stay in the houses they have occupied for several decades.

“This is no way to treat workers who have for years stayed in the estate and contributed to the revenue of these big companies,” he said.

“Where would these people go? They cannot afford to buy houses and calling them squatters without any legal rights to the houses they have been living and seeking to evict them after gaining years of service from them is just not right,” he said.

He said huge plantation companies like Sime Darby, KL Kepong, Socfin, who had gained much from the hard work of these workers in the past, should have come up with some housing plan for these workers, who will not be able to buy houses in their later years.

He said in the case of Ladang Tagar, while efforts had been taken to build houses on the land that had been allocated for the estate workers.

However, there were no funds back then, and the estate workers had approached the government for funds to build the house . Although there had been talks that the funds will be allocated in the budget, there was no such funds.

“With the new government, we are hoping that an allocation can be made in the budget to build the houses for the estate people.”

Meanwhile, one of the affected estate workers said that there could be two reasons why the eviction notices have come about.

“It could be because the owner is looking to sell off the land or finding ways of accommodating foreign workers who are cheaper labour,” he opined.

Meanwhile, a check on property sales shows many pieces of agriculture land around the area have been put for sale this year.