‘Barak tea workers continue to be discriminated’: Assam.

Barak tea

Special Correspondent

Silchar, July 13: The CITU affiliated Akhil Bharatiya Cha Mazdoor Sangha (ABCMS), Cachar district committee, in a memorandum submitted to the Chief Minister of Assam through the Deputy Commissioner recently has demanded early declaration of the minimum wages of the tea workers. It reminds that the earlier industry wage agreement expired on December 31, 2017. Since then, there has been no further revision and declaration of minimum wages. This has culminated in serious hardship to the tea workers and their family members. The Union has been insisting on Rs.350 as minimum and sustainable daily wages at the rate of Rs.350 per day in order to bring about parity between Brahmaputra Valley and Barak Valley.

This submission of memorandum is not only a reminder to the State government to its commitment to eliminate all sorts of discrepancies and discrimination against the tea workers of this zone but also its oft-repeated refrain on improving the socio-economic condition of the working class. It is this working force which has kept alive the tea industry of Assam initiated by the British planters during the mid 1850’s. No exaggeration, this tea industry is the only industry in Barak Valley while state and central industrial units set up at the cost of crores of rupees have gone with the wind.

Chunilal Bhattacharjee, president, ABCMS, regretted to say that the tea magnets and management have shown scant respect to Plantation Labour Act of 1951 and Rules of 1956. No tea estate or garden in this valley excepting two is giving effect to the minimum provision of the Act of 1951. Sadly enough, as the trade union leader pointed out, there is no agency of the Centre or the State to monitor and even question on its implementation. It sounds strange that even nearly 68 years of the Act being brought into force, the government which swears by the Constitution of the country for welfare and well being of working class people in particular has never been serious about its implementation and that adds to the woes and sufferings of tea tribe people.

Bhattacharjee said there are in all 310 tea gardens including their out branches in Barak Valley. Around 80 to 90 of them are in good financial condition. Others are beset with unending problems. Some of them can hardly pay the basic minimum wages, some are providing rations regularly. In most of the cases, the workers are hard-faced about the payment of their bonus, provident fund money, basic facilities, health services, safe drinking water, accommodation, leave with pay, sick leave and better roads among others, added to say Gopal Bhowmij, general secretary, ABCMS.

The Union leader further said most of the tea gardens are having ceiling surplus land kept after all legal process. But, unfortunately as mandatory the surplus land is not being allotted to the landless or retrenched garden workers or to ST/SC category of people. Along with that the Union has also voiced the concern of the cultivators who are deprived of the due price of their crops. It has been demanded that the middlemen jumping into the purchases of crops should be discouraged by arranging direct lifting of the agricultural products. The farmers stand in need of irrigation facilities for multiple and year long cultivation to meet the deficit in demand and supply. Besides, the poor farmers should be provided patta for their ceiling surplus land, pointed out Gopal Bhowmij.