The Tea Workers’ Wage Demand Committee comprising Akhil Bharatiya Chah Mazdoor Samiti, Assam, All Adivasi Students’ Association of Assam (AASAA) and All Adivasi Women’s Association of Assam (AAWAA) staged a dharna in front of the Labour Office at Kokrajhar with a demand to fix the wage of the tea garden workers at Rs 330.
A protest rally was taken out from near Gourang bridge and proceeded via Kokrajhar Deputy Commissioner Office road and culminated at the Labour Office premises.
The Tea Workers’ Wage Demand Committee carried out attacked both the Centre and State government for negligible wage payment towards the tea garden labourers in Assam. The Committee leaders expressed their deep concern over the issue of low wage payment which is a negligible – just amount of Rs 177.
“The tea garden labourers are the lowest paid workers in the country’s organised sector,” the protesting leaders said. The protestors voiced against the State government and the tea estate owners, and demanded justice of their cries and sorrows.
Speaking to reporters, Stephen Lakra, the president of the AASAA, stated that according to the provision, Assam’s unskilled labourers’ daily wage should be Rs 330 per day but the workers have been receiving only Rs 177 per day, which is very negligible. He mentioned, “The labourers working in the tea estates in Assam are skilled and not unskilled because the Adivasis are engaged in tea business for ages since the British rule.”
Lakra also stated, “Both the Centre and State government do not think about the welfare of the tea workers’ community except they use them as vote bank. Only during the period of election, political party leaders come to tea garden areas and give them assurance that their demands would be fulfilled but after the election, they all forget their assurances.”
The tea workers’ wage demand committee demanded that the ruling government should implement their promises.
The protesting leaders also said that the tea garden workers in Assam are not getting overtime dues whereas their counterparts in South receive two times of the wage as overtime benefit. “In Assam, the tea estate workers are paid for six days a week while in Kerala they are paid for seven
days a week plus the holidays,” the AASAA leaders said.
Tea Workers’ Wage Demand Committee also demanded that pay cut be stopped in the name of housing, medical, water, electricity, pension, PF, gratuity and bonus. They also demanded
that Sunday be declared as a paid holiday, make proper payment of overtime and adhere to the Constitution and all laws related to the wage and benefits.
Lakra said the Tea Association of India (TAI), Assam, the Assam Branch Industrial Tea Association (ABITA), Bharatiya Chah Nigam have been betraying the tea labourers in Assam by providing low wage. In Assam, 70 lakh people have been engaged as tea garden workers in around 950 tea gardens.
Santosh Guha, state member of the Centre of Indian Trade Union (CITU), the president of the CPI-M, Kokrajhar district unit, slammed the Central government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP-led State government for price hike and low wage of the tea garden workers.