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Worker health not on tea companies' radar

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  18 Dec 2015 12:00 AM GMT

Lack of hospitals and adequate medical staff in tea garden annoys Medical Advisory Board, magements directed to report on NHM fund utilisation

By Our Staff Reporter

Guwahati, Dec 17: Of the 750 registered tea gardens in the State, 165 do not have a hospital. As many as 89 gardens do not even have a dispensary.

Tea gardens are required to have a hospital and a dispensary as per the Plantation Labour Act.

The lapses on the part of the garden magements were detected by the Medical Advisory Board constituted recently by the State government.

At a review meeting held on December 14 last, the board stumbled upon more disturbing facts that reveal the dismal living conditions of tea workers.

Some 220 posts of doctors in tea garden hospitals are vacant. There were also vacancies for 210 nurses, 135 pharmacists, 213 midwives and 189 dressers.

In 2010, the tiol Health Mission had given Rs 15 lakh each to 250 tea gardens of the State to upgrade their hospitals. But the tea garden magements have not given utilization certificates of the funds till date.

Annoyed at the laxity, the Medical Advisory Board has sought reports within a month from tea gardens on the utilization of NHM funds.

Instructions were also given to the gardens to ensure that the vacant posts of medical staff are filled at the earliest.

None of the tea gardens have maintained drug lists since 2005. The drug lists contains details of medicines required, procured and distributed. The board has asked the Health department to work out the drug lists with the tea gardens within December 21.

While the garden hospitals showed many patients as “referred”, they could not furnish details of the hospitals to which the referral was done.

“The situation is very pathetic. We are not at all satisfied at the state of affairs. There are 10.5 lakh registered tea workers and 8 lakh casual labourers. The magements are playing with the life of these workers. We have warned the gardens to improve the medical infrastructure and facilities,” the board’s chairman Bhagirath Karan said.

The revelations came days after a BBC report described the plight of the tea workers as ‘dangerous’, ‘disgusting’ and ‘degrading’.

A combition of dismal living conditions and low wages has kept tea workers and their families malnourished and in poor health. The BBC quoted a health officer as saying that nine out of 10 patients from tea plantations were malnourished.

Their being condemned to unhygienic living made them prone to diseases like diarrhoea, TB, meningitis and skin lesions.

The State government has drawn flak for failing to enforce the regulations in the tea gardens.

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