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  • Departmental standoff leaves State cashew sector in crisis

    Jan 8th, 2016

    The alleged standoff between the Industries and Labour Departments over managing the cashew sector is threatening to delay the reopening of factories in the public sector and also the implementation of a project drawn up for streamlining the trade to stop corrupt and other unethical practices.Labour Department sources told The Hindu here that the Cabinet had decided in principle to divest the Industries Department of the management of cashew sector and entrust it to Labour Minister Shibu Baby John. It was also proposed to provide Rs.100 crore for running the factories under the Kerala State Cashew Development Corporation (KSCDC).

    Cashew, one of the traditional industries in the State, originally falls within the ambit of the Industries Department. But the previous LDF government too had made similar experiment by vesting it with the then Labour Minister P.K. Gurudasan. The Cabinet has decided to replicate the LDF model and a decision to that effect had been made too. Being a labour-intensive industry, with its pivot in Kollam, this was construed to be a pragmatic option too, sources said.But for making the decision, the government neither issued a notification nor initiated steps to make available adequate funds to procure nuts from abroad and make the 30 KSCDC factories operational. This was in spite of an assurance given by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy in the Assembly that the government would complete procedures to secure nuts and make the factories fully functional by January 5. Mr. John is reported to have expressed unwillingness to take over the portfolio without providing funds and also issuing the formal notification, sources said.This uncertainty has virtually left the industry headless. The government, in the wake of a spate of corruption charges levelled against the KSCDC management, had constituted a Secretaries’ committee to streamline the trade. The committee is understood to have submitted recommendations for introducing e-tender.Had the government provided funds and floated tenders for importing raw nuts, it would have been able to reopen the factories in time.