GUWAHATI: The Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha (ACMS), the largest trade union of garden workers in the North East, has demanded the Tea Board of India to launch a sustained awareness drive against consuming illicit country liquor by tea workers.
The demand has come close on the heels of the death of more than 150 tea workers in Golaghat and Jorhat districts after consuming illicit country liquor. Hundreds of others in the hooch tragedy are now suffering from critical ailments including liver and kidney damages besides loss of eye sights.
ACMS general secretary Rupesh Gowala had made the demand at the recent board meeting of the Tea Board in Kolkata. The board is a statutory body under the Union Ministry of Commerce and considered as the apex regulator of the tea industry. The meeting also observed a minute’s silence in memory of the hooch tragedy victims. “Checking alcoholism will only boost the labour output. There has to be a sustained awareness drive to make the tea workers understand the dangerous health consequences of consuming liquor,” Gowala said.
According to some studies and surveys carried out in recent years, over 80 percent of tea workers above the age of 40 were found to be addicted to alcohol.
“Apart from being an economic drain, the repercussions of alcoholism are multilayered. Children of alcoholic parents often drop out of school and look for petty work in the garden area to supplement the family income. Under the influence of the environment at home, most children also take up drinking at an early age,” Dr Sajidur Rahman, a doctor who once served in tea gardens in upper Assam said.
Dr Rahman said alcoholism is the prime cause behind a widespread occurrence of liver cirrhosis among the tea community, which often proves fatal. He said the burden of alcoholism usually falls on the shoulders of the women workers who are already struggling to make ends meet.
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