20 December 2012

Solidarity With Tea Garden Workers

All of us know about inhuman conditions of the tea workers of North Bengal. During the Left Front Government’s regime, the unending procession of dead, starving workers that emerged from the tea gardens was an issue that was much discussed and which led to many protests. With the re-opening of many gardens, there has some improvement in this state of affairs. However, overall, the situation remains the same without any meaningful gains for the workers. The number of closed gardens may have reduced, but the wages of tea workers remain abysmally low, when compared to the huge price inflation in the past few years. The conditions of workers in this industry, in which India is a world leader, are as bad, if not worse, than that of workers in the unorganized sector.

Despite all the denials by Governments in power, one cannot but accept that hunger and hunger –related malnutrition are a daily problem for tea workers. For example, Ramjhora TE is now an open garden, so the workers there no longer get the facilities that were extended to closed gardens. Ironically, they are also not given the wages and facilities of workers of open gardens. They feel they have gone from the frying pan straight into the fire.

Dheklapara tea garden makes the headlines every second day for all the wrong reasons. There may be endless debate about whether the deaths in Dheklapara are due to starvation, but there can be no doubt that the workers are in horrendous conditions. While giving doles occasionally, the Government is silent, saying that the matter is sub judice. The garden is under liquidation, yet no buyer is coming forward. The Tea Board, which is legally obliged to see that tea gardens function properly, and the State Government, which is also responsible for workers’ welfare, could take it over, are shrinking from doing so.

Another garden close to these two is Dalmore, which has been closed or is on the verge of closure for two years now.  It gets none of the facilities for a closed garden and its management also shows no signs of re-opening the garden.

The workers of these three gardens want to take positive action. NTUI has organized worker representatives to come to Kolkata. 28 of them are coming to meet the state administration on 21st December 2012. On the 22nd December 2012 afternoon at 2 p.m., they will meet the press at Press Club to give details of their conditions and that of their gardens.

On 22nd December 2012, these 28 workers will meet various trade unions and other sympathetic persons at 10.30 AM at AWBSRU Guest House to explain their problems and ask for suggestions and solidarity support.

We invite you/a representative of your organization to join us on the 22nd to extend solidarity to the workers and give suggestions for their future movement.

In solidarity
Anuradha Talwar, Pradip Roy

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