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In the wake of the deadly coronavirus outbreak, the Assam Tea Tribe Students’ Association (ATTSA) has demanded closure of all tea gardens of the state till March 31.

The appeal comes in the backdrop of the Assam government’s decision on Sunday to shut down all educational institutions, cinema halls, multiplexes, gyms and swimming pools besides suspending school annual exams to March 31 to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“We are highly concerned about the grave threat to the lakhs of tea garden workers posed by the deadly Coronavirus.  The workers pluck tea leaves within a distance of 1 foot and it is very risky for them,” ATTSA president Dhiraj Gowala said.

Gowala said garden workers face real threat as they don’t have safety gears like masks, gloves etc and they work in close proximity with one another while plucking tea leaves.

“Since the government has shut down schools, colleges, universities and other facilities till March 31, they should also extend the same to tea gardens.

“However, the workers should not be deprived of their daily wages during the shutdown period. Under the provisions of the Industrial Dispute Act, 1947, workers have to be exempted from work in case of natural calamities,” he said.

“The tea workers are much vulnerable to this virus. We appeal the tea management and the workers for closure of tea garden so that the safety of tea workers can be ensured,” Gowala added.

The ATTSA leader also urged state labour and tea tribes welfare minister Sanjay Kishan to take necessary measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the tea garden areas.

An estimated 1.1 million workers are currently employed in the 803 registered big tea gardens of the state.

“The government should think about the safety of tea workers because they are much vulnerable to Corona virus because they work very closely during plucking,” the leader said.

Avik Chakraborty

Avik Chakraborty is Northeast Now Correspondent in Dibrugarh. He can be reached at: babs8oct@gmail.com