TINSUKIA, Sept 26: The Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha (ACMS) slammed the Small Tea Growers (STGs). A press release issued by Raju Sahu, former MLA and vice-president of ACMS, stated that despite having several thousand bighas of land with their own factories, the STGs have been depriving tea workers of housing, water, PF and gratuity under the Plantation Labour Act. The STGs do not pay any royalty to the government, nor any tax or land revenue though they draw subsidy from the Tea Board, besides receiving cash and other incentives like manure storeroom and tea leaves carrying vehicles. There are many tea gardens where the owners do not pay any wage, instead the workers are paid according to the quantity of tea leaves plucked at the rate of Rs 3 per kg, the release stated.
Though most of gardens possess more than 35 bighas of land and fall within the ambit of Plantation Labour Act, they have not been registered at the office of the PF Commissioner. Sahu questioned the role of the PF chairman, who happens to be the State Labour Minister, as to why the PF chairman did not initiate any criminal case against the defaulters.
Sahu alleged that legislators who create uproar in the Assembly on various issues remain completely silent regarding the injustice meted out to poor tea garden workers because many of these politicians own tea gardens after encroaching several thousand bighas of government land. He urged upon tea welfare organizations like ACMS, ATTSA and AASA to come forward for justice to the poor tea labourers.