Voices from the Tea Plantations
Floods be a National Issue and ST Status for the Tribe
August 25, 2017
Guwahati, Aug. 23: The Joint Action Committee of Tea Tribes Adivasi Assam has demanded that the floods in the state be declared a national problem according to a report in The Telegraph.
If this demand is not met by February 2018, the organisation has also threatened to launch an agitation in tea gardens, including a blockade of tea exports from the state.
The organisation took the decision at a recent meeting attended by intellectuals and leaders of the tea tribes. "Assam suffers from floods every year. Many people are rendered homeless. This year, the disaster caused huge damage. So providing compensation and relief is not the only solution. The Centre should declare the floods as a national problem and do their best to prevent it permanently," the organisation's chief convenor Israil Nanda said. "If the Centre and the state do not take any initiative in this regard by February, we will stage protests in every tea garden. As part of the agitation, no worker will do any plucking. We will also block the export process," he added.
There are more demands: the organisation also warned the government to take a decision on granting Scheduled Tribe (ST) status to six communities of Assam. "We seek a clear stand of the state government on this issue. There are some restrictions for the tea tribes in Assam to get ST status. We will demand an autonomous council for the tea tribes. A study committee is working to prepare a proposal for the autonomous council," Nanda said. The committee also alleged that workers under the Assam Tea Corporation are deprived of various facilities such as provident fund, bonus and other benefits. The organisation demanded release of Rs 5000-crore package for the tea workers.
"There is discrimination over daily wage among the tea workers of the Barak and the Brahmaputra valleys. After decades of service in the industry, many workers are deprived of bonus and other facilities. Under the Assam Tea Corporation, there are around 25,000 workers in 15 tea gardens in Assam. But those workers have not got a single paisa as provident fund and bonus over the past 15 years. They are also deprived of facilities provided as per the Minimum Wages Act, 1948," Nanda said. The state government has released no funds to the Tea Workers' Welfare Board, it alleged.
"The former state government used to provide a package of Rs 100 crore to the welfare board. But the present government has reduced it to Rs 53 crore and that, too, is yet to be released. The condition of the board is also pathetic. The Congress government had decided to collect Rs 2 each from the workers and Rs 4 from the owner of gardens against each worker as the fund for the board. The decision was withdrawn," he said.
First published in Sabrang
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