GUWAHATI: There is a long-standing and unaddressed disparity in the daily wage earned by tea garden labourers of the Brahmaputra Valley and their counterparts of the Barak Valley.
Tea garden managements of both the Brahmaputra Valley and the Barak Valley receive the same incentives from the government and the labourers of both areas perform the same tasks. Yet, while the tea garden labourers of the Brahmaputra Valley will receive a daily wage of Rs 232 after the recent hike, the labourers of the Barak Valley will receive only Rs 210 - Rs 22 less per day.
Most tea industry sources attribute the disparity to "traditional system". Moreover, no government has thus far intervened to end the glaring disparity despite repeated demands from tea garden labourers concerned.
According to another source in the tea industry, one justification for the disparity in daily wage is the geographical factor. The source said that tea gardens in the Barak Valley incur additional cost in transportation of inputs such as petroleum, lubricants, coal etc., and the cost of production is consequently adjusted by means of comparatively lower daily wage. The sources further pointed out that Barak Valley's 100-odd tea gardens contribute just 6.5 per cent to Assam's total output of tea.
Office-bearers of the Barak Democratic Front, a labour-linked organization, told The Sentinel that the excuse of added costs of input no longer withstands scrutiny in view of improved communication infrastructure. They urged the government to intervene in the matter in the interest of the tea garden labourers of the Barak Valley and ensure "one-Assam, one-wage'.