The call by MIC president G. Palanivel for members of the Indian community, who are mired in hardships in town and cities, to work in the plantation sector, including in estates owned by government-linked companies, received little support from the community.
Palanivel, who is Deputy Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister, had said that the government had agreed to a minimum wage of about RM700 a month for the sector, compared to RM300 previously, and that they would also enjoy free housing as well as free transportation for students in estate areas.
MIC Youth chief T. Mohan said working in estates would not guarantee a bright future for the community.
The government should instead provide a Felda-like land development scheme for the community, he said.
“RM700 is too small but if there are plans for a Felda-like scheme, then we have no problem agreeing to it because it will help create entrepreneurs among the Indian community,” he said.
He added that many members of the community had ventured out of estates and that it was not proper to ask them to come back.
Indian studies lecturer at the University of Malaya, Prof Dr M. Rajentheran, said the call was only suitable for the unskilled, those who had no permanent jobs or those who were unable to cope with urban living.
They might consider coming back to the estates if the salary was increased to RM1,200 a month, he said.
Malaysian Indian Youth Council president A. Rajaratnam said the call was no longer relevant in the country’s increasingly competitive development sector.
“The minimum wage should be increased to RM1,200 a month and they should also be given allowances. A husband and wife will then be able to earn about?RM3,000 a month. If this happens, I myself will encourage them to work in?estates,” he said.
A former estate worker A. Rajeswari, 38, said she would not return to the estate even if the salary was increased to RM900 a month.
“I have three children … where can I find tuition and music classes in?estates?” she Rajeswari, who now works as a cleaner here.