Assam tea workers seek parity with those elsewhere

Our Bureau | | Updated on: Nov 15, 2018

Women tea garden laborers with their umbrellas on moved out from the tea bushes to have their loads weighed before lunch in Sonapur Tea Garden out skirts of Guwahati city on Tuesday, April 27, 2004. Continous rain since last one month creating heavoc in most of the places in Assam, causing early floods in districts like Morigaon, Nagaon and Cacher of Assam. assam is the largest producer of Tea in India and around 428.174 milion kgs of tea is produced in the state. Tea gardens are apresd over 2. 31, 890 hectares in amost all the 24 districts. Around 5,60,000 permanent workers and almost an equal number of temporary workers are employed in the tea gardens. Approximately 60% of the tea garden workers are women. Photo: Ritu Raj Konwar

The Joint Action Committee for Tea Workers’ Wages (JACTWW), Assam, came down heavily on the BJP governments at the Centre and in Assam for not keeping their word to implement the promised minimum daily wages of ₹351.33 to 11 lakh-strong tea plantation workers in the State.

“Unlike their counterparts in south Indian States such as Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, tea estate workers in Assam get a meagre daily wage of ₹167. During its election campaigns — both in 2014 and 2016 — the BJP promised that if it came to power the wages would be upwardly revised to at least ₹350. All it did was to increase it by ₹30 to ₹167 per day,” said Bibek Das, central convenor of JACTWW, an umbrella organisation of eight tea workers’ unions and social organisations working with estate labourers, at a press conference on Thursday.

While tea workers in Kerala get more than ₹300 a day, those in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka are paid over ₹250 per day and other benefits, Das said.

According to Stephen Lakra, president of the All Adivasi Students’ Association, Assam, also part of the joint action committee, the Government has been promising to implement a uniform wage bill for all tea workers in the country. Instead of adhering to its own promise, it has been resorting to the age-old practice of bilateral negotiation between tea-plantation owners and one particular trade union affiliated with a political party, Lakra said.

In July this year, following a strike in which lakhs of tea workers partook, the government revised the minimum daily wage to ₹167 whereas its labour commissioner recommended a wage of ₹351.33 a day, Lakra said.

That, too, the government implemented from first of April this year, rather than January as is the norm. “By delaying the implementation by three months, it deprived tea workers a total of ₹300 to 400 crore in arrears,” Das said.

Published on November 15, 2018
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