14 March 2016

Tea Workers: Court Orders Alternative Dispute Resolution

A division bench of the Kolkata High Court headed by the Chief Justice today ordered Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity (PBKMS) to seek the intervention of the State Legal Services Authority through Lok Adalats to mitigate the problems of tea workers.

PBKMS had filed a writ petition (WP-4225W/2016) before the High Court highlighting the problems of tea garden worker , arising from the present crisis in the industry as well as long term issues. Shri Bikash Bhattacharya, senior advocate , intervened on behalf of PBKMS.

The petition focused on the non-compliance by employers, State and Central Governments of the provisions of the Tea Act, Plantation Labour Act , Employees Provident Fund Act and Minimum Wages Act. It asked the court to ensure that conditions are created to ensure each tea worker gets a food intake of at least 2400 calories per day. It also asked for immediate relief for tea garden population in the form of Antodaya Anna Yojana, MGNREGA work and wages, health facilities, drinking water and electricity. Respondents were State and Central Governments, the Tea Board and employers such as Duncans India Limited.

The Chief Justice has given a time of two weeks for the petitioner to seek and receive help from the Lok Adalat process. If such relief is not received, the case will be heard once again by the division bench at the end of the month.

PBKMS is hopeful that the Lok Adalats will give some immediate relief to the tea garden population, but it is of the view that some of the problems, such as ignoring of the minimum wage issue by employers and the State Gsssovernment will require further serious intervention by the Court.

Uttam Gaine 
General Secretary

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