Coconut climber K. Sasi among ‘Thozhilali Sreshta’ awardees
Forty years ago, K. Sasi chose to become a coconut plucker. He loved his job and never turned back. Now 60, Mr. Sasi is on cloud nine after bagging the ‘Thozhilali Sreshta’ award of the State government last week.
“I am a coconut tree climber and never expected to win an award. It is a great gesture on the part of the government to recognise people like me,” says Mr. Sasi, a resident of Mampuzhakari in Kuttanad.
Instituted by the Department of Labour and Skills, he won the accolade comprising a cash prize of ₹1 lakh and citation.
Mr. Sasi started climbing coconut trees at the age of 20 with a machete tucked to his back and using two small loops of rope — one around his feet gripping the front of the tree and the other he carries to hold on to the trunk. The sexagenarian still practices the traditional method of coconut plucking and scales the dizzy heights of the trees with relative ease, which helped him win the laurel. “I am always happy that I chose coconut plucking as my career. It helped me build a house and educate my two children. The award is a cherry on the cake,” he says.
From 20 paise to ₹50
According to him, a lot has changed in the past 40 years with regard to wages and harvesting of coconuts. “When I embarked on a career in coconut plucking, I would get 20 paise a tree. Nowadays I receive ₹50 a tree. Introduction of coconut tree climbing machines was a game-changer. Traditional climbers and methods will soon become a thing of the past,” he says.
Mr. Sasi climbs around 30 trees daily and fetches ₹1,500. He says that despite the good pay, the educated younger generation, including his own children, is not keen on considering it a career. “An award like this will help change the perspective of society towards jobs like tree climbing and attract youngsters to the profession,” he adds.
15 in award glory
In a first-of-its-kind initiative in the country, a total of 15 labourers from the private sector were given the ‘Thozhilali Sreshta’ award by the government based on their skills. The winners were selected from various sectors, including security guard, headload worker, construction worker, toddy tapper, housemaid, salesman/woman and so on.