2:18 AM

RM 33

Foreign 'buruhs' earning thousands here. And ours RM33??? So what went wrong? This was reported by free malaysia today. And what else..... did everyone rushed to help??? naaaa..... again/as always, many parties showed their ultimate interest - 'to-blame-it-on-MIC".

so what are the acti0ns taken by MIC (since the 'others' are bz talking and talking and talking) .....

YB Kamalanathan ( as the newly elected Parliament member of HS)

With regards to the poverty issue which was highlighted by FMT yesterday.
I am aware of the many community issues here that need my personal attention. My team is on the ground collating feedback on the issues. I have resolved some of the issues and am working on resolving others as it involve other parties.
I am committed to serve this constituency and have been doing that since i was elected.
As for the issue at Nigel Gardner and Sungai Jernih, I have written letters to both the plantation owners demanding for an explanation on the said matter of which i hope to get an immediate response from them. I have also highlighted the issue to the Minister of Human Resources and also to the Deputy Minister of Commodity.

updates to be ctn.......

Fancy a job that pays you RM33 a month?

SPECIAL REPORT KUALA KUBU BARU: Palm oil and rubber prices have rocketed, and industry captains are laughing all the way to the bank. Shareholders, some of whom have never been to a plantation, are ecstatic about their expanding bank accounts.

But FMT learnt that the plantation workers do not share the same kind of excitement, and so a team was dispatched to two estates in Hulu Selangor to find out why.

Welcome to the Nigel Gardner and Sungai Jernih plantations, whose inhabitants were recently treated to round-the-clock sumptuous feasts and top-notch entertainment.

No, it was not a reward from their paymasters for their hard work, but rather baits thrown by political masters to fish for their votes in the recently concluded by-election.

When FMT visisted the estates last week, the fanfare had ended. No more colourful lights, Tamil songs blaring from mammoth speakers or politicians with hampers making a beeline.

But why are these folks not excited about the soaring rubber and palm oil prices? Because some of them still cannot afford a meal in a fast-food restaurant.

Earning RM200 or less

After 53 years of independence, and much economic progress, there are scores of families dwelling in these faraway plantations, who try to make ends meet on a monthly wage of RM200 or less.

The most shocking case is perhaps N Subramaniam, a father of four. This 42-year-old plantation worker was only left with RM33, following the deductions to his April salary.

Fighting back tears, he said neither him nor his four schoolgoing children have been to a fast-food restaurant, referring to the KFC outlet in the nearby small town of Kerling.

According to his payslip, RM206 was deducted for advance taken, RM50.21 for electricity, RM40 (insurance), RM10 (union), RM24 (EPF) and RM1.75 (Perkeso).

Sometimes, Subramaniam said, his salary “can go up very high” to RM700, depending on the weather and other factors.

“My family is alive because of my wife. She is a factory worker and manages to earn around RM600, but it's hard work. She works for six days, from 7am to 7pm,” he added.

FMT also learnt that the families here were lacking in basic healthcare and proper meals.

M Thangachiamah, 42, a field worker, said she has to support her four children, aged between 13 and 16, on a salary of RM300.

Her husband is a contract worker, who gets paid on a daily basis.

Worried about children's future

Showing FMT her payslip, Thangachiamah said for the 26 working days in April, her salary was RM281.90 after deductions – RM150 for advance, RM10 (union subscription), RM20 (insurance), RM58 (EPF), RM2.75 (Perkeso) and RM6 (temple fund).

With the bulk of the money being spent on her children's education, nothing much is left for food and other expenses.

“School expenses itself is more than RM100 a month. I pay RM70 for my daughter's bus fare because her school is about 30km away.

“I feel extremely sad when I think about my children's future,” she lamented, with tears in her eyes.

Asked if she has considered leaving the estate to seek better employment elsewhere, Tangachiamah said she and her husband never went to secondary school.

“Many people have told me to work someplace else, but how can we? Even for factory workers, they are asking for SRP or SPM these days,” she said.

The pawnshop cycle

Faced with a similar predicament, P Vijayan, 25, is taking care of his elderly parents and his disabled elder brother.

His father, M Pavaday, 66, said his son was forced to quit school at the age of 12 and is therefore unable to secure employment elsewhere.

"I had appoached the welfare department for assistance after a politician visited my house. After looking at my (disabled) son's condition, he said I am entitled to financial aid,” he added.

Pavaday then showed FMT a slip of paper, which he claimed entitled him for assistance.

However, the paper contained only his name and identity card number. There were no particulars of the signatory or any official stamp to indicate that it was issued by the welfare deparment.

K Sinniah, a mandore, agreed that life is hard for those in the estates, and for the “lucky ones”, their one true “good friend” is the local pawnshop.

“It moves in a circle; when times are bad, what little valuables they have are pawned. And when times are good, the jewellery is retrieved... only to be pawned again.

“But these are the lucky ones, some don't have anything to pawn, so they are forced to borrow money from friends, or buy things on credit from the estate sundry shop,” he said.

The more desperate ones, said the 53-year-old mandore, turn to small-time loan sharks.

Even MIC president S Samy Vellu, after visiting the estates in Hulu Selangor, concluded that conditions were better when the colonial masters were running the plantations.

Their local counterparts, he suggested, appear to mete out sub-human treatment to their fellow Malaysian.

In April, Women, Family and Community Development Minister Shahrizat Abdul Jalil expressed confidence that her ministry would be able to rescue all hardcore poor families by year-end.