The stand taken by the Assam Tea Tribes Students Association (ATTSA) over the plantation workers’ wage hike issue may spell doom for the BJP in upper Assam in the forthcoming Assembly election.
The ATTSA on Thursday announced a complete shutdown of all tea gardens in Brahmaputra and Barak valley on March 22 against the BJP government’s apathy towards tea workers.
Addressing a press conference at Dibrugarh, ATTSA president Dhiraj Gowala said, “The government has failed to address the problems of the tea garden workers. The BJP-AGP alliance has not addressed the genuine problems of the workers.”
“The people of tea tribes were deprived of their rights. Before the Assam Assembly elections, the BJP has given ‘loollipop’ to the tea workers by hiking the wage to Rs 217. Only Rs 50 was hiked by the government. We have been demanding a wage of Rs 350 for all plantation workers,” he pointed out.
Recently, the tea garden owners have moved Gauhati High Court against the wage hike of Rs 217.
The Gauhati High Court on March 9 ordered the government not to take any action against the Indian Tea Association and 17 tea companies, which own nearly 90% of the state’s over 800 gardens, until a case, filed challenging the Assam Labour Department’s notification on the wage hike, is disposed of.
Some of the tea garden owners have clearly stated that they are not in a position to hike the wage of tea workers.
Gowala said, “The wage hike issue of tea garden workers has been politicized. To get tea garden votes, the BJP government has announced a wage hike of Rs 50 but in reality, the workers are not getting Rs 217 to date.”
Meanwhile, ATTSA has decided to file a petition at Gauhati High Court on the wage hike issue.
The tea students’ body has also planned to campaign against the BJP in the tea gardens.
“We will organise awareness meetings against the BJP-AGP alliance in tea gardens. The government has betrayed us by depriving us of every aspect. Earlier, the Congress government cheated us and now the BJP has done the same thing with us,” Gowala added.
The tea tribe community — comprising 17% of the state’s population — is a deciding factor in almost 40 Assam Assembly seats.
“The government has assured to grant ST status to the community but till date, nothing has been done,” he added.