Huge defaults by ATC-private gardens, Labourers face bleak future
BY OUR STAFF REPORTER
GUWAHATI, February 15: Assam is known throughout the world for its tea. But tea labourers who have made it possible are a shamefully exploited lot in the State. Shockingly, due to non-deposit of their provident fund (PF) money by tea garden magements, these labourers face a bleak future.
The default in depositing PF money in 228 privately-owned tea gardens amounted to a whopping Rs 91.63 crore as on March 31, 2014.
The government-owned Assam Tea Corporation (ATC) is also not lagging behind in this exploitation saga. The ATC, which has 19 gardens across the State, is yet to deposit PF amount to the tune of Rs 59,20,77,945.34 as on March 31, 2014.
These 19 ATC-owned tea gardens are Murmurria TE, Cinmara TE, ginijan TE, Sycotta TE, Katonibari TE, Messamara TE, Negheriting TE, Rungamatty TE, Deepling TE, Bholaguri TE, Amluckie TE, Dejoovalley TE, Loongsoong TE, Suddar Office, Longai TE, Soi Cherra TE, Issabheel TE, Bidyagar TE and Rajabari TE.
In Assam where political parties maneuver for tea community votes by hook or crook, the ATC’s default in depositing PF amount reflects the callous attitude of the State government to tea labourers.
As per the record of the Office of the Assam Tea Plantations Provident Fund and Pension Fund Scheme, there are 1,017 tea gardens, excluding the gardens owned by the ATC in the State. Out of these, the magements of 228 tea gardens are yet to deposit the PF funds of their labourers.
Sources revealed that the ATC has not been depositing PF money of its labourers since April 1, 2005. “Given the huge pending PF amount, it is doubtful whether the ATC will be at all able to deposit the money in the near future,” sources said, adding, “All the ATC owned tea gardens are facing losses due to mismagement and the labourers are bearing the brunt.”
Sources blame former Industry minister Pradyut Bordoloi for this sorry state of affairs, for the ATC comes under the Industries department.
Tea labourers, who continue to be underpaid and have little fincial security, have high expectations of their PF deposits. But the sheer irresponsibility and callousness of government-controlled ATC and private garden magements in depositing their PF monies, has put a huge question mark over their future, particularly after they retire or are uble to continue work.