GUWAHATI: Even though slogans continue to rend the air across the tea gardens in the State demanding hike in daily wage of labourers, Dispur is yet to decide on the amount of wage.
Talking to The Sentinel on the ongoing agitation by tea estate labourers regarding hike in their daily wage, State Tea Tribe and Labour Welfare Minister Sanjay Kishan said, "The government is very much concerned over the issue of wages of tea garden labourers. Though their demand is Rs 351 daily, the government's one-man committee of wage fixation with the then Additional Chief Secretary Kumar Sanjay Krishna recommended the amount at Rs 197 per day in cash, which goes up to Rs 226 with kinds. At this juncture, we can only say that we're going to fix the garden workers wage at a respectable amount."
On the suggestions of the Kumar Sanjay Krishna Committee, Kishan said, "We're taking views from various organizations on the suggestions made by the committee. We can take the final decision only after receiving views from the organizations concerned. If the wage is fixed at Rs 351 per day as demanded by the labourers, I think some of the tea garden managements may move the Court. Whenever tea labourers' wage is hiked, garden managements raise some objections referring to the 'Plantation Labour Act-1951'. Their objections in today's situation are irrelevant. If they move the Court, the government should also get ready to face the challenge."
Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha vice president Raju Sahu said on Thursday that since the BJP had promised to raise the daily wage of tea garden labourers up to Rs 351 in its election manifesto that assurance should be fulfilled. "A few days back, BJP MP Pallab Lochan Das said that the demand for hike in the daily wage of garden workers up to Rs 351 is beyond reasons. We condemn it. The State government is luring the tea garden workers by depositing Rs 2,000/3,000 to their accounts. Instead of doing this, the government should hike their daily wage up to Rs 351." According to sources, an advisory board had fixed the daily wage of labourers in the small tea gardens at Rs 244 in 2018. Following objections, that issue is yet to be settled.
The State government has fixed the daily wages of labourers at Rs 282 for unskilled, Rs 329 for semi-skilled and Rs 411 for skilled ones in the shop and establishment sector. On the contrary, a tea estate labourer gets just Rs 167 per day.
Sources said that in accordance with the Act of 1951, all tea garden managements will have to provide labourer welfare facilities like crèches, canteens, recreational facilities, sickness benefits, pure drinking water etc. However, many of the gardens conveniently don't provide such facilities.
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