The Assam Tea Tribe Students’ Association (ATTSA) and the All Adivasi Students’ Association (AASA) on Tuesday jointly blocked the National Highway 15 at Helem under Gohpur Sub-division in Biswanath district demanding increase in the wage of tea garden workers.
The protestors blocked the NH 15 for two hours affecting the vehicular traffic on the National Highway. The protestors covered several parts of the National Highway who protested along with placard and banners. They shouted slogans against the Assam Government for its lackadaisical attitude towards the tea tribe community, especially the garden workers.
They also shouted slogans demanding increase in the the wage of tea garden workers. They shouted slogans like ‘No ST, No Rest’, ‘Assam Government Hi Hi’.
The apex tea tribe students’ bodies of the north bank of Assam also jointly demanded that the Adivasi community be granted Schedule Tribe status.
More than 3,000 protestors, including tea garden workers and members of both the students’ bodies gathered the area coming from differed parts of the district and participated in the road blockage programme.
The agitators also demanded that essential commodities be provided by the State government to the garden workers as well as their daily wages.
Joguram Panikar and Sunil Lakra, President and Secretary of the Dafalagarh unit of the AATSA and AASA respectively said, “We have demanded increase in the wage of the tea worker from Rs 137 to Rs 350 with immediate effect. In this regard, we have submitted a memorandum to Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal through the Helem Circle Officer. We also demand the government to immediately grant Schedule Tribe status to the Adivasi community of Assam as other parts of the country.”
Lakra also said, “With the daily wage of Rs 137, it is not possible for the tea garden workers to run their families but the garden authorities and the State government have not taken any initiative despite repeated appeals. So, we had no option but to block the NH 15 as a mark of protest.”
He also questioned, “While the government can increase salary of elected political leaders, who are elected only for five years, then why injustice towards the tea workers?”
Lakra lamented, “The government has been using us as their vote bank since long, but they have been showing step-motherly attitude towards the Adivasi people. The tea garden worker are always neglected from all sides by both the State and Central governments. When the election is over, everybody forgets us.”
There was a huge traffic jam during the blockade hours on the NH 15 from 10 am in the morning to 12 noon as there no vehicle was allowed to ply on the Gohpur-Tezpur road connecting towards Lakhimpur and Arunachal Pradesh.