At 100, co-op infra major ULCCS set to expand footprint beyond Kerala

Having grown from humble beginnings into a major infrastructure builder, Kerala-based Uralungal Labour Contract Cooperative Society (ULCCS) has plans to extend its footprint in its centenary year, based on the foundational vision of sustainable and inclusive development.
A project work by Kerala-based Uralungal Labour Contract Cooperative Society
A project work by Kerala-based Uralungal Labour Contract Cooperative Society

Thiruvananthapuram | Having grown from humble beginnings into a major infrastructure builder, Kerala-based Uralungal Labour Contract Cooperative Society (ULCCS) has plans to extend its footprint in its centenary year, based on the foundational vision of sustainable and inclusive development.

Founded by a group of youngsters inspired by the teachings of social reformer and renaissance flag-bearer Vagbhatanandan as a workers’ collective at a village near Uralungal in Kozhikode district in 1925, ULCCL is now a mega enterprise with an annual turnover of Rs 3000 crore and a large workforce on muster rolls.

As a Total Solution Provider (TSP), ULCCS in recent years forayed into cutting-edge fields as well including Information Technology, skill development and material quality testing, even as consolidating its position in the infrastructure development.

With a rich legacy and flourishing portfolio of 7500+ projects, ULCCS is a member of the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA) and earned the international acclaim as promoter of a unique development model.

The year-long centenary celebrations will be inaugurated by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on February 13.

"More than celebrations and high-octane events, we are keen to leverage the centenary as a historic context to draw upfront initiatives and projects for the next 100 years that should benefit the home state, the country and the world," ULCCS Chairman Rameshan Palery told PTI.

The plans include setting up an independent university of international standards and partnership.

"We are in discussions with the University of Arizona as part of this ambitious project," Palery said.

He said ULCCS is ready to take up works outside Kerala also, provided that all the dealings are transparent.

He said the centenary is packed with events, including international seminars.

"Apart from that, we consider it as our responsibility during the centenary to adopt and promote sustainable and inclusive practices in infrastructure building, as envisioned by Vagbhatanandan. This is especially important at a time when the humanity is faced with grim challenges arising from ecological devastation and climate change."

He emphasised the need for refraining from unscientific exploitation of resources, including quarrying.

"We should create environmentally sustainable models that help mitigate the consequences of climate change. We are seriously considering how we can adapt to the latest technologies available globally and plan for the next 100 years," he said.

"We prefer to go by setting examples. We are constructing a bridge in Thirunavaya in Malappuram district using sustainable material and technology, drastically reducing the use of steel and cement. It's cost-effective also," he said.

ULCCS, which has constructed bridges, highways, and government buildings, has set a high standard for quality and completing the works within or ahead of the deadline .

"We have completed projects scheduled for 24 months in just 16 months," Palery said.

The ULCCS’ Cyber Park in Kozhikode firmly marked north Kerala in the IT map of the country.

"The centenary is also an occasion for us to salute the founders of ULCCS, starting with a small gathering of youngsters inspired by the ideals like dignity of labour, self-reliance and self-respect propounded by Vagbhatanandan’s movement Atmavidya Sangham in north Kerala, which was part of the Malabar district of the Madras province under British rule," he said.

These youngsters first pooled a few coins at their disposal to form the ‘Aikya Nanaya Sangham’ (United Credit Cooperative) and later formalised their endeavour as Uralungal Labourers Mutual Aid and Cooperative Society, which eventually became ULCCS.

The newly-formed workers' collective started off by taking up local resilience works like rebuilding bunds of farmlands and stockyards of fishermen washed away by the devastating floods of 1924.

Clinching a reputation soon for quality and completing the works without delay, the path was one of fast-paced progress since then.

"Quality of work and meeting the deadline are non-negotiable for ULCCS. This principle has been instilled in our workers since the early days, and it continues to motivate them even today".

Over the decades, ULCCS has delivered numerous landmark projects for various Kerala State government departments, including Finance, Co-operation and Local Self-Government.

Its board, comprising 13 directors with extensive experience spanning 30-35 years across all construction domains, has proved its confidence to take up big projects running into hundreds of crores of rupees.

Labour welfare as the basic motive, ULCCL has recently taken in workers from other states as well, assuring them all benefits that the local workforce is entitled. All workers will get the benefits like Provident Fund and insurance. Family of a deceased worker gets an insurance amount up to Rs 40 lakh. If a worker who joined today dies tomorrow, his family is entitled to insurance benefits, Palery said.

"Our model is to accommodate the workers on an equal footing. They are provided at the worksite with breakfast, lunch, and dinner for free. Afterall, the ownership of the society rests with the workers," he added.

On the management model of ULCCS, he said "Our profit is very low. But the management system is very strong. We value the spending of even Rs 1."

Asked about the criticism that ULCCS is pro-Left and enjoys the patronage of the LDF government in Kerala, he said even the earlier UDF government headed by late Congress veteran Oommen Chandy had awarded it projects worth over Rs 1000 crore, which were executed in a time-bound manner.

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