By Our Staff Reporter
Guwahati, January 6: In a stop–gap arrangement, the tea companies are buying ration from the open market at double the price for the first quarter of the year, even as the Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangh (ACMS) filed a petition at the Gauhati High Court against the government’s decision to suspend the supply.
Industry sources today said the Consultative Committee for Planters Association (CCPA) has decided to procure the ration – rice and flour– from the open market for “immediate relief” for the first quarter of the year – January to March.
“The tea gardens are paying more than double the price now. Earlier, the ration was provided by the government (from the PDS stock) at Rs 800/900 per quintal. Now, the gardens are buying it at Rs 2,000/2,200 from the market,” a source in the industry said.
This will automatically increase the cost of production. It is not known if the rise in cost of production will have any bearing on the price of tea.
The CCPA, which has now adopted a wait–and–watch policy, is unsure about its next course of action.
In a related development, the union of tea workers under the banner of Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha (ACMS) has filed an appeal at the Gauhati High Court against the government’s decision to suspend the supply of ration.
ACMS secretary Dileswar Tanti confirmed that an appeal has been filed, but refused to divulge details.
It is learnt that the court will take up the matter on Wednesday.
The government as well as the tea industry is following the developments closely.
The Centre has stopped the ration supply from PDS stock contending that under no provisions are the labourers entitled for the subsidized ration. The Centre had advised the tea companies to procure the ration from the market. So far, the garden authorities have been procuring ration items from the State government through Food Corporation of India. Rice and flour (all PDS items) have been provided at the rate of 55 paise per kg to the labourers. About 12,500 MT of ration are distributed among 19,28,719 tea labourers per month in the State.
A labourer’s family is entitled for 6.92 kg of ration every week.
Earlier, there were reports that the Consultative Committee for Planters Association (CCPA) was also perplexed at the circumstances and had discussed the possibility of approaching the court if a solution is not arrived at soon.
The tea companies are also perplexed at the impending issue of wage hike.
While the tea workers in the State are currently entitled for a daily wage of Rs 94, they are demanding Rs 300 when the new wage agreement comes into force after March.
The tea companies insist that the demanded amount is unreasoble given the facilities – health, education, housing etc – enjoyed by the workers. The companies are also taking into account the likely liability if they have to procure ration from the market for distributing it to the workers.
There are indications coming from the tea companies that the new wage could be fixed at around Rs 150/160.
The State government had recently constituted a Minimum Wages Board which will sit with various stakeholders and negotiate with the workers for fixation of the new wage.