Thousands lose livelihood as Kerala’s toddy shops shut down

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PALAKKAD: ON an average day, an estimated 3 lakh litres of toddy is tapped from Chittur’s coconut groves. The yield is then collected by drivers with interdistrict permits, who transport it to as many as 12 districts in the state. Now, with the government finally deciding to close down toddy shops in the wake of the Covid-19 lockdown, thousands of such daily wagers have all been rendered unemployed in one go. This list comprises toddy tappers, drivers, salesmen and others in various allied sectors.

“Most of the toddy tapped in Chittur goes to other districts. With shops shutting down, thousands of people involved in the sector have suddenly been left with no jobs,” said a coconut grove owner of Perumatty panchayat, who did not want to be named. According to him, Malayali toddy tappers tap around 12 coconut palms per day, while Tamil tappers tap around 40 to 50. “Most of the tappers have taken down their pots from the palm as there is no toddy sale now. Now, if they have to resume the tapping after the lockdown period, it will take at least 20 days to come up to speed,” he said.

K Sivan, general secretary of the Swathanthra Kallu Chethu Thozhilali Union, pointed out the necessity to address the crisis that has hit the toddy sector. “Many farmers earn an income by leasing out their coconut palms for tapping. What will they do now,” he asked.

Though the Toddy Workers’ Welfare Fund Board has announced that they would disburse `10,000 to each worker, those from Tamil Nadu who were not covered by the fund will not be eligible, Sivan further added.

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