TEA NEWS: Tea unions glare at govt – upto Rs 200 in Assam while Darjeeling and Dooars languishes far behind, Bengal’s conscience proud of its “legacy of exploitation” ?!!
BY THE TELEGRAPH STAFF REPORTER
Jorhat, Dec. 1: Bagisa Shramik Santha and Asom Majuri Shramik Union, the two registered unions of Assam, have demanded that the Centre and the tea industry hike the daily wages of labourers working under the national rural job scheme and those of tea garden workers to Rs 200 at the earliest.
The two associations, claiming to have nearly one lakh members across the state, have threatened a massive agitation if their demands were not met immediately. Members of the two associations will stage a Dispur gherao on January 8 in support of their demand.
At present, the daily wage of a tea estate worker is Rs 68.50 while for those working under the national rural job scheme the rate is Rs 100. The unions have also demanded setting up of a minimum wage board for tea by the state government, similar to such bodies in other tea-producing states.
Addressing the media here today, top office-bearers of the two unions demanded that the Assam government immediately constitute a minimum wage board for tea workers like other tea-producing states (except West Bengal) had done long ago on the lines of wage boards for textile and cotton workers.
Accusing the industry and the government of exploiting and neglecting the workers, secretary of the Bagisa Shramik Santha, Sapun Bora, said the workers daily wage rate of Rs 68.50 was “very little” to meet the daily food requirement of three persons of a labourer’s family.
According to existing government norms, the daily wage should be calculated by taking into account the fact that a person needs 2,700 calories per day.
Bora said the union wants the daily wage to be hiked to Rs 200 keeping in view the fact that three persons of his family, including the worker, is able to consume food of 2,700 calories each. He said as per World Health Organisation (WHO) norms, a person needs 3,200 calories of energy daily for proper functioning of the body.
On the same basis, the daily wage under the national rural job scheme should be increased to Rs 200, according to Devabrata Sarmah, the adviser of the two unions. He said the claim by managements that food ration is supplied to the workers at subsidised rates did not hold as the quality of rice and atta were “very inferior and bought at a very cheap price”.
Sarmah, also a political activist and a college lecturer, said the system of bilateral discussions between the industry and the Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha, the only workers’ union recognised by the tea industry, on any matter — be it wages or other issues — should be done away with immediately.
Sarmah said negotiations regarding any issue of the workers should be held between the industry and all the registered unions.