Union textiles minister Smriti Irani arrived in Assam on Saturday to appease the tea tribe community, with the All Tea Tribes Students’ Association (ATTSA) calling a total bandh in all tea estates to protest against the state’s government’s failure to fix the minimum daily wage of tea garden workers.

Irani tried hard to woo the tea tribe community during an election rally at Nakachari in Mariani legislative assembly constituency in Jorhat district.

The tea tribe community has a strong presence in the Upper Assam districts and forms a sizable electorate in the state.

The tea garden workers currently get a daily wage of Rs 167.

Campaigning on behalf of Mariani BJP candidate Ramani Tanti, Irani highlighted the money that the people had received in their bank accounts through various schemes and scholarships, all the while focusing on the tea tribe community.

Mariani forms a part of Assam’s tea belt with all three candidates, Tanti, Rupjyoti Kurmi of the Congress and Gopal Ghatowar of the Asom Sangrami Gana Mancha in the fray, belonging to the tea tribe community.

Irani also said that while the daily wage of a tea garden worker had been only Rs 97 during the Congress regime, this was increased to Rs 217 by the BJP government in 2020.

However, the Gauhati High Court stayed the implementation of daily wage hike, asking the Assam government not to act against the Indian Tea Association and 17 tea companies until a case challenging the notification of the Assam labour department is disposed of.

The labour department had issued a notification on February 23 to implement the hike in daily wage garden workers by Rs 50, amounting to Rs 217.

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“Our government has increased the maternity benefit to Rs 18000 from Rs 12000 and provided Rs 8000 scholarships to 2000 students of the tea tribe community,” said Irani.

Irani also harped on the good work being done by the Modi government regarding health —  setting up of an AIIMS in Assam, reservation of students belonging to the tea tribes in medical colleges, free health check-ups held in tea garden areas, mobile medical check-up units, etc.

Smita Bhattacharyya

Smita Bhattacharyya is Northeast Now Correspondent in Jorhat. She can be reached at: triptyaddy@gmail.com