Naturally occurring fibre coir is used to make ropes, mattresses, mats etc. and is a preferred material of choice for environmentally conscious citizens. Odisha is self-sufficient in coir production and the Puri district alone has more than 15,000 people employed in 700 coir processing units. However, there is no state protection for the coir industry or its workers against cyclones, a regular affair in the coastal state of Odisha.
Our Community Correspondent (CC) Sumitra Barik spoke to one of the labourers working in a coir processing unit in Siriapur, Puri and he narrated his ordeal working at the facility. "I used to work as a driver here. But due to less raw material my vehicle is lying idle. I now work as a labourer at this coir unit. Before the lockdown we would easily earn Rs. 400-500 per day. But that has reduced. Even the number of people engaged at work has reduced from 25 people to 15 people," said Prakash Swain. Labourers engaged in 8 hours of manual labour earn only Rs. 180 per day. The Jagannath Rath Yatra, one of the major festivals in Puri was suspended because of COVID-19 restrictions. This led to a loss of business to the coir processing units as well as traders who would sell coir products at the festival.
"As coir is a natural product there is a lot of scope for it. However, due to cyclones, this industry is always vulnerable. The government needs to help overcome the impacts of cyclones by having an insurance scheme for coir industry workers," said Jyoti Ranjan Patra, Secretary of Coir Odisha Association.
Our CC also spoke to Amiya Ratna Panda, the General Manager of District Industrial Centre. Although, he refused to speak on camera, he confirmed that the coir industry comes under the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise (MSME) sector which is not covered under any relief packages.
If you wish to put pressure on authorities to include this industry within the government's relief bracket, please call on the number provided at the end of this video.
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