By our Staff Reporter
GUWAHATI, Jan 8: The Assam Pradesh Congress Committee (APCC) has criticized the Centre’s move to do away with the British-era system of giving ration to tea estate workers, and urged it not to implement the move. The Congress feels that the move is going to affect tea garden labourers hard.
The Union Labour Ministry is planning to draw curtains on the age-old system of ‘cash and kind’ wages for plantation workers and make cash payments in their bank accounts mandatory.
Under the Plantation Labour Act, 1951, the wages of plantation workers include cash, besides ration, healthcare and education services. The daily wage of a plantation worker in Assam, with effect from January this year, is Rs. 137. He or she is also entitled to 35 kg of rice and wheat every month at a subsidized rate of 54 paise per kg.
Addressing the media today, APCC president Ripun Bora asked the Centre to clarify if the money, to be given to the workers in lieu of ration which is viewed a part of their wages, would be on a par with market prices. “We oppose the Centre’s move to kill the system of ration. This isn’t just anti-poor, anti-people and anti-labourers, but also illegal,” Bora said, and added that the move is aimed at satisfying the tea garden owners.
“As of now, it’s not clear how much money a worker will get in lieu of ration. If the money is at the subsidized rate of ration – rice at 50 paise a kg against the market of Rs 27 a kg – it will be a great injustice to the workers. We must not forget that the family members of workers also enjoy the fruit of the system. If the government implements the decision without examining these aspects, the miseries of workers will only increase,” Bora said, and added: “Prime Minister rendra Modi’s statement that demonetization has led to the less cash regime in tea estates will fall flat. The opening of ATMs in one or two tea estates doesn’t mean making tea estate cashless.”
Reacting to the campaign by the BJP that demonetization has lowered the prices of essential commodities, Bora said: “It’s a blatant lie. The main slogan of the BJP in the past Lok Sabha and Assembly polls was checking price rise. However, they’ve utterly failed to check the rising prices of commodities. After a few days of demonetization, there has been rise in the prices of petroleum by Rs 1.29 a litre, the price of diesel by 97 paise a litre, aeroplane fuel by 8.6 per cent. Even the price of kerosene is rising by 25 paise after an interval of almost 15 days. It will rise by 25 paise on February 1. This is not all. The Centre has slashed the Assam quota of kerosene by 15 per cent.”
In the me of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, the Centre has imposed a cess in the bill of every service, Bora said. “The common people who pay for the Abhiyan don’t see what changes are there with the launch of the drive. Constructing a few sanitary latrines half doesn’t mean Swachh. In the me of advertisement for Swachh Bharat Abhiyan the government has spent a whopping Rs 250 crore,” he said.
On Luiz Berger scam Bora sought the intervention of the Gauhati High Court in the inquiry. “There’re allegations of a minister of the State in the scam, and which is why the BJP-led government in the State is intervening in the inquiry in order to delay it. The CID has kept the proposal for a video conference with an American body in cold storage for four months,” he said.
On the delay in NRC update, Bora said: “NRC update was one of the poll promises of the BJP. The draft NRC was supposed to be published within six months after coming to power. Seven months have already elapsed, but the government being led by the party is yet to publish the draft. Rather they are hatching a conspiracy to stall the publication of the NRC draft. They are talking of fresh scrutiny of documents backing NRC. Why don’t they want to publish the draft NRC by March 31? They can scrutinize the documents hundred times even after the publication of the draft NRC. They’re delaying the publication of the draft NRC so as to include the mes of Hindu Bangladeshis who have entered the state till December 31, 2014.”
Bora said: “The demonetization was aimed at lending lakhs of crores of loans to corporate groups like Ambanis, Adanis and others. Most of the people arrested by CBI and Enforcement Directorate are BJP leaders. Thus one can guess who are corrupt?”