Kerala: Lifeguards struggle to stay afloat

Risk allowance and other benefits were stopped a year ago.

Thiruvananthapuram: An average work day for a lifeguard can cost them their life, but the tourism department estimates this cost to be Rs 580 - their daily wage. The money used to be a little more, but around a year ago, their risk allowance, food allowance and a few other benefits were stopped. The government, in trying to be fair to all daily wage workers, unified their wages, and cut the allowance for these people who practically risk their life every minute for tourists who visit Kerala beaches. “Our work is just not the same as a daily wage gardener at the secretariat,” said a lifeguard.

There are over 150 of them working in beaches across the state. Except for a handful of beaches in Thiruvananthapuram like Veli and Kovalam, their workplaces do not even have a toilet. One can imagine their plight when their CITU-affiliated union had to call for a strike with the LDF in power. The strike by Kerala Tourism Lifeguard Employees’ Union was called off after a day on November 20, 2017, as the Tourism Directorate assured them of better wages, insurance and gratuity within a month’s time.

Tourism director P. Bala Kiran told DC, “The tourism minister had taken the proposal to increase their wages and other benefits seriously. It just needed a government order, after the finance department’s approval. We will check the status of the proposal. If there are lacunae in physical infrastructure, this will be addressed as well.”

Another issue they face is that their posts are not permanent. They say that because of this they do not get the protection of Kerala Service Rules. On New Year’s Day, the Union’s Thiruvananthapuram secretary M. C. Baby, while on duty, was hit by a drunkard, injuring his chin bone. After surgery at the government medical college hospital, the 51-year-old had to rest for two months, without pay. “I wrote to the department, submitting copies of the FIR and my complaint, but there has been no favourable decision so far.” People who joined the first batch of lifeguards in 1985 are now in their fifties. Without pension or savings, they are anxious about the future.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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