Tea workers' Minimum Wages Act to undergo changes

Kolkata, Sept 24: The Centre, while implementing the Minimum Wages Act in tea gardens across India, will slowly be phasing out the "kind" components in a labourer's earnings while social security schemes would be extended to them, an official said here on Thursday.

"Minimum wages is a law and the industry is honouring the law by partly paying in cash and partly in kind. The issue is paying the entire wage in cash and giving flexibility to the wage earners. We would like a more liberal regime," R.R. Rashmi, additiol secretary in the ministry of commerce and industry, told media persons on the sidelines of the AGM of the Tea Research Institute here.

Rashmi said the Centre is prepared to extend help to the tea garden workers "in case the competitiveness issue comes in through these flagship schemes".

"Non-availability of these facilities should not become a concern," he said.

Under the present model, while the tea pluckers get a daily remuneration, they are also entitled to several benefits including medical, foodgrains, sanitation which are counted as part of the cost-to-company. The proposal from the Centre will mean encashing these facilities while the social benefits would be addressed by various state and central government schemes.

Asked about the time-frame for implementing the conversion of these benefits into cash, the official said it would be done in phases. "Withdrawal of the kind component has to be done in phases and not overnight," he said.

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Sentinel Assam