Showing posts with label Darjeeling tea. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Darjeeling tea. Show all posts

चिया कमानको मजदुरको जीवनको मोल कति?

9:57 PM
सम्पूर्ण चिया कमानहरुमा काम बन्द गर अनि श्रमिकहरुलाई बन्द अवधीको वेतन देऊ!

DTA अनि CCPA को दार्जीलिङ पहाड़को चियाकमानहरुमा काम संचालित रा‌ख्ने कोशिशको घोर निन्दा गरौं!

विश्वलाई त्रासित बनाएको कोरोना भाइरसको महामारी विरुद्ध हर एक देश अनि संस्थाहरु एकबद्ध भएर सक्रिय रुपमा काम गरिरहेका छन्। हाम्रो देशमा पनि यो भाइरसको विस्तारलाई रोक्नको निम्ति सरकारले कतिपय मापदण्ड या नियमहरु तय गरेका छन्। सरकारले जनाएका धेरैवटा सावधानीहरु मध्ये 'शारीरिक दूरी' प्रमुख हुन्। यस विषयलाई प्राथमिकता दिदै सरकारले २१ दिनको 'भारत लॉकडाउन' को घोषणा पनि गरेका छन्। यस निर्णयलाई देश भरिका राज्यहरुले अनिवार्यतापुर्वक पालन गर्ने सहमति जनाएका छन्। COVID-19 को रुपमा प्रकट भएको विश्वरुपी महामारीलाई ठप्प गर्न हरेक व्यक्ति अनि सरकारको जिम्मेवारी बन्न पुगेको छ।

हालैमा कालेबुंग निवासी कोरोना भाइरस पिडित महिलाको मृत्युको घटनाले हाम्रो पहाड़ पनि भाइरसको चपेटमा आइसकेको कुरा प्रष्ट हुन्छ। उनको मृत्यु North Bengal Medical College, Siliguri मा भर्ना भएको एक दुइ दिन भित्रमा २८ मार्च २०२० को दिन भयो। पहाड़मा घटित यो प्रथम मृत्युले सबैलाई सोचनीय स्थितिमा पुर्याएको छ र सरकारी स्वास्थ चिकित्सा व्यवस्था प्रति धेरै प्रश्नहरू उठ्न स्वाभाविक नै हो। के सरकारले यस्तो संकटको परिस्थिति सामना गर्न आवश्यक तयारी गरेका छन् त ? के हाम्रा क्षेत्रका अस्पतालहरु आवश्यक चिकित्सा सुविधाहरू बारे सुचित थियो त ? सामाजिक संजालमा अडियो विडियो मार्फत कोरोना संक्रमित लक्षण हुने व्यक्तिहरुले उचित ढंगमा उपचार नपाएको गुनासो गरिएको खुलासाले हाम्रो सरकारी चिकित्सा प्रावधान कति जिर्ण अवस्थामा छ भन्ने कुराको पुष्टी गर्दछ। यस घटनालाई लिएर अस्पतालको अवस्था मात्र नभएर डाक्टर र चिकित्सा कर्मचारीहरु माथि प्रश्न उठी रहेको छ। तर वास्तवमा कुरा बुझ्नु हो भने यी प्रश्नहरुको उत्तर दिने दायित्व सरकारको हो। उपचार गर्ने डाक्टर अनि चिकित्सा कर्मचारीहरुले पनि सरकारद्वारा पाउनु पर्ने आवश्यक 'Personal Protective Equipments (PPE)' पाएका छैनन्। उनीहरु त आफ्नो दायित्वलाई पुरा गर्न ज्यानलाई जोखिममा हाल्दै भए पनि सक्रियतापुर्वक अघि बढिरहेका छन्।
Darjeeling Tea Workers
Darjeeling Tea Workers

अर्को आश्चर्यजनक कुरो के छ भने, यस्तो महामारीको समयमा पनि दार्जीलिंग टी एसोशियेसन (DTA) अनि कन्सल्टेटिव कमिटि अफ प्लानटेसन एसोशियेसन (CCPA) ले चिया बगानहरुलाई पुर्ण रुपमा संचालन गर्ने मांग बंगाल सरकार सामु राखेको छ। विश्वभरिनै लॉकडाउनलाई गम्भिरतापूर्वक पालन गरिरहेको बेला हाम्रो चिया बगान कर्मचारीहरु भने आज पनि बाध्य भएर बगान धाइरहेका छन्। बंगाल सरकारले पनि यस मांग माथि विचार गर्ने कुरा स्टेट्सम्यान खबरकागजबाट बुझ्नमा आईदैछ। चिया बगान कर्मचारीहरुको हीत अनि सुरक्षा को जिम्मा DTA अनि CCPA जस्तो संस्थाहरुले लिनु पर्ने बेलामा, अझ कर्मचारीहरुलाई खाड़लमा हाल्ने मेलो गरिदैछ। DTA अनि CCPA का सदस्यहरु लगायत चिया बगानका मालिकहरुले दर्शाएको यस्तो असंवेदनशील निर्णयलाई हामी घोर भर्त्सना गर्छौ। के उनीहरु साँचै कोरोना भाइरसको प्रभावबारे अज्ञात छन्? या उनीहरुलाई लाग्छ, पुस्ता पुस्ता देखि घाउ, चोट अनि दु:ख खप्नु सक्ने कर्मचारीहरुले यो कोरोना भाइरसलाई पनि आरामले पचाईदिने छ। के चिया बगान कम्पनीले उगाउने भव्य नाफाको सामु चिया बगान कर्मचारीहरुको जीवनको मूल्य यति तुच्छ छ ?

पुरा पश्चिम बंगालमा लॉकडाउनको आदेश दिने सरकारले, कसरी चिया बगानका कर्मचारीहरुसंग पक्षपात गर्न सक्छ? चिया बगान र कारखानासंग जुडिएको प्रत्येक काम नै संगठित ढंगमा गर्नु पर्ने हुन्छ, यसैले 'शारीरिक दूरी' पालन गर्न असम्भव छ। चिया बगान खोलिनु नै यहाँ काम गर्ने कर्मचारीहरुको ज्यानलाई खतरामा पार्नु हो अनि उनीहरुको वर्तमान अनि भविष्यलाई जोखिममा हाल्नु हो। कथांकल दुर्भाग्यवस भोलीको दिनमा केहि क्षति पुग्न गए, के बंगाल सरकार, DTA अनि CCPA ले सम्पूर्ण चिया बगान कर्मचारीहरुको अनि उनीहरुको भावी पिडाको जिम्मेवारी लिने छन् त? त्यस बखत शायदै DTA अनि CCPA ले निर्धारित गरेको चिया बगान केन्द्रित 'Strict Safety and hygiene guidelines' प्रभावशालि हुने छन्।

विशेषगरि, DTA अनि CCPA को मांगबारे स्थानीय प्रसाशन (GTA) अनि अरु राजनैतिक दलहरुको परिप्रेक्ष्य बारे केहि प्रश्न गर्न चाहन्छौ। प्रथम, DTA र CCPA ले गरेको मांग अनि कर्मचारीहरुको सुरक्षाबारे विवाद हुँदा, GTA का प्रतिनिधि, दार्जीलिंग जिल्लाको MP अनि MLA हरुको के-कस्ता प्रतिक्रियाहरू आएका छन् ? दोश्रो, यस्तो विवाधित क्षणमा पहाड़को स्थानीय राजनैतिक दलहरु साँचै नै श्रमिकवर्गको जीवन र सुरक्षाको अधिकारको पक्षमा छ भने, किन DTA र CCPA को निर्णयको विरुद्ध किन निमुखा दर्शक बनिरहेको छन् त ? यदि आफ्नो राजनैतिक सहायकहरुलाई खुशी पार्न मात्रै राजनीति गर्न हो भने, आफ्नो कुम्लो कटेरो बाँधे हुन्छ। तेश्रो, एकातिर हाम्रो राजनैतिक प्रतिनिधिहरु मुख्यत: सांसद क्षेत्रको भावी योजनाहरूबारे ट्वीट गर्नमै व्यस्त देखिन्छ भने अर्कोतिर DTA र CCPA को हालैको निर्णयलाई लिएर आफ्नो मन्तव्य राख्नबाट टाढ़िएको सर्वविदित नै छ। उता पहाड़का तिन विधायकहरुले पनि DTA र CCPA को अमानविय निर्णय, जसले हजारौ श्रमिकहरुको ज्यानलाई जोखिममा पारेको छ, त्यस विरुद्ध चुँ सम्म पनि गरेका छैनन्। राज्य सरकार, विधायकहरु र सांसद, मालिक पक्षले खुल्लम-खुल्ला श्रमिक बर्गको जीवन र सुरक्षाको अधिकारको हनन् गरेको देख्दा देख्दै पनि सबै किन‌ मौन छन् ? उनीहरुको मौनताले हामीलाई यो प्रश्न तेर्साउनुमा मजबूर गर्छ कि, के सरकार, विधायकहरु र सांसद, उही मुट्ठीभर मालिक पक्षले मात्र बनाएको हो ? हाम्रो प्रतिनिधिहरु यस्ता विपतको क्षणमा पनि DTA र CCPA को कमानलाई संचालित राख्ने अमानवीय र निन्दनीय कोशिशको विरुद्धमा एक शब्द पनि किन बोल्नु सकिरहेको छैन त ?

यसै संदर्भमा हाम्रो छिमेकी राज्य आसम सरकारले २१ मार्च २०२० को दिन नोटिफिकेसन नो: L.E.16/2018/4035-98 मार्फत चिया बगानहरुलाई पूर्णरुपमा लॉकडाउन गर्ने आदेश दिएका थिए। यस नोटिफिकेसन अनुसार चिया बगानको लॉकडाउन साथसाथै कर्मचारीहरुले पाउने हाजिरा, उनीहरुको रोजगार अनि अधिकारहरु माथि ठप्प नलागिने निर्णय लिएका थिए। तर हालैमा चिया कमानको मालिक वर्गहरुको प्रेसरमा आएर आसम सरकारले आफ्नै निर्णय फिर्ता लिने भएका छन। र यस्तो स्थितिमा हाम्रो पनि क्षेत्रको जन प्रतिनिधिहरुको साथै राजनैतिक दलहरुको मौनता, DTA र CCPA को निवेदन, बंगाल सरकारको मनोवृत्ति हेर्दा मालिकवर्ग संग केन्द्र र राज्य सरकार दुवै मिलेर मजदुरहरुको जीवन संग खेलवाड गर्दैछन् भन्ने कुरा बोध हुन्छ। के चिया बगानहरु पृथ्वीमा नभएर अर्कै ग्रहमा छन् जहाँ कोरोनाको खतरा छैन ? के चिया बगानको मजदुरहरु 'Right to life and safety' देखि वञ्चित छन्? बंगाल सरकारले DTA अनि CCPA को मांगलाई स्वीकार गर्नु नै मजदुरहरुको विरुद्ध उभिनु हो। यस्तो अमानवीय सोंचको हामी कडा शब्दमा खण्डन गर्छौ।
जब सम्पूर्ण विश्वनै एकबद्ध भइ यो महामारीको विरुद्ध संघर्ष गर्न कम्मर कसी रहेको छ भने यहाँ दार्जीलिंगमा चाहिं केहि तुच्छ विचार भएका चिया कमानका मालिकहरु र उनीहरुका चम्चाहरुले DTA र CCPA को संकीर्ण स्वार्थ पूर्ति हेतु कमानको काम बन्द हुन नदिने निर्णय लिएको छ। विधित नै छ कि चिया कमानमा काम गर्ने मजदूरहरु अधिकांश नै गोर्खा अनि आदिवासी समुदायकाहरु छन्। त्यसैले मालिक पक्षको कमानलाई सुचारु राख्ने निवेदनले उनीहरुको क्रुर परजीवी मानसिकतालाई अभिव्यक्त गर्दछ। DTA अनि CCPA ले मजदूरहरुलाई कामबाट केहि दिन विश्राम, राशन पानी, अग्रिम बेतन आदि सुविधाहरु प्रदान गर्नको सट्टा कमानको काम चालु राख्ने निवेदन टक्राई आफ्नो शोषक परजीवी प्रवृतिको झलक स्पष्ट देखाएको छ। हामी मालिक पक्षको यो अमानवीय निर्णयको कडा शब्दमा भत्सर्ना गर्दछौ अनि यो संकटको समयमा मजदुरवर्ग संग काँधमा काँध मिलाई उनीहरुको अधिकारको निम्ति आवाज उठाउन कटिबद्ध छौ।

यसर्थ सरकार समक्ष हामी यो मांग राख्दछौ कि भारत लॉकडाउनको अवधि चियाकमानहरु सम्पूर्ण रुपमा बन्द राखियोस अनि चिया श्रमिकहरुलाई अग्रिम वेतन, राशन पानी, स्वास्थ्य सेवा र अन्य सहुलियतहरु समयमा प्रदान गरियोस्!

सरकारी स्वास्थ्य व्यवस्थाको हालत बुझी सकेको छौं, हामी आफै सचेत र सावधान भएर घर भित्र नै बसौं, शारीरिक दुरी पालन गरेर कोरोनाको प्रकोपबाट बाचौं र अरुलाई पनि बचाउँ!   
      
गोर्खा स्टूडेंट्स, जे.ऐन.यू               ०२.०४.२०२०

Condemn the attempt by D.T.A & C.C.P.A to operate the Tea plantations in Darjeeling

6:00 PM
Shut Down Plantations and Pay Wages to the Workers.

Darjeeling Tea Association and Consultative Committee of Plantation Association has turned deplorable and inhuman by shamelessly requesting the West Bengal State Government to allow the complete operation of Tea Plantations in Darjeeling as reported in the Statesman on 27th March 2020.

How indifferent, insensitive and self- centered can the Plantation Owners/ Company Heads get under this dire threat to the entire human species? Are the members of the D.T.A. and the C.C.P.A – “uneducated”, “illiterate” and so “ignoble” (often phrased as reasons for avoiding quarantines) that they do not understand the seriousness of the pandemic at hand? Then how’s it possible they have a stomach to appeal in such a mean spirited and draconian move to make tea labourers work under present circumstances. Is the common consensus within the D.T.A. and C.C.P.A an absolutely unscientific and superstitious hope and belief that tea workers of Darjeeling would exclusively remain immune to the novel Coronavirus? Or are they of the opinion that the life of our fellow brothers and sisters is so cheap that they can be readily disposed for the sake of a few crores petty profit? Isn’t this move of the D.T.A. and C.C.P.A consolidating the belief that tea plantation workers are merely slaves?

Therefore, in complete solidarity with the workers and their vulnerabilities during this time, we condemn this inhuman, insensitive and draconian move by the D.T.A & C.C.P.A for appealing the State Government to operate the plantations in Darjeeling.
We are confounded to observe that the State Government actually appears willing to deliberate on this request and may even consider it. In a situation where this very government has ordered a complete lockdown throughout the state, how can it even think of taking a contradictory position on the fate of thousands of workers and their dependent families? Especially, when working in the fields and factories entails gathering and socialising in a way that cannot be substantially avoided (which the workers are very much aware of) regardless of the D.T.A & C.C.P.A proposed precautionary measures such as “strict safety and hygiene guidelines”. However, under the same circumstances, in the neighbouring state of Assam, their state government has ordered a complete lockdown of the tea industry vide notification no. L.E. 16/ 2018/ 4035-98 dated Guwahati, 21st March 2020. The plantation owners there have complied to not only shut down the industry but also to cooperate with the government order that states categorically- “not to terminate employment or reduce wages” of any worker whether permanent or contractual and to consider them to be on paid leave. When such a socially relevant decision can be taken by Assam what bothers and stops the West Bengal Government to toe a similar line? What’s so special about Darjeeling that its workers don’t deserve a right to life and safety? It would be utterly draconian if the state government grants the requests of the D.T.A. & C.C.P.A. and we stand firmly against any such move by the government to endanger the workers’ lives.

Moreover, it is imperative now to ask few extremely crucial questions to all administrative and political bodies immediately concerned with the region regarding their positions on the latest move by the D.T.A& C.C.P.A. First, what is the local administration i.e. the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration(G.T.A.) and political representatives like the M.P & M.L.A(s)of Darjeeling going to do to reconcile this division of interests between the Plantation Owners (DTA & CCPA) and that of the workers? Second, what are the positions being opted, perhaps now, if they are truly concerned, by all the local parties proliferating on the soil of the hills? If they cannot be nonchalant to this move by the D.T.A& C.C.P.A to bereave workers from their right to life and security, our best suggestion to all parties is to shut down their clientele based politics and disband their organisations.

Third, our political representatives, especially the M.P. has so far been busy tweeting future plans for the region while the present move by the D.T.A & C.C.P.A is left conspicuously unaddressed by him. Then, what is RajuBista (M.P. Darjeeling) doing at the moment to tackle this new found situation? Whereas, the three MLA’s from Darjeeling hills, who are nowhere to be heard right now, what are they doing about D.T.A & C.C.P.A’s inhuman move to push the workers to risk and endangerment? Shall the State Government, the M.L.As, the M.Pas well as the G.T.A remain a mere onlooker without a voice during such an attack by the plantation owners on the right to life and security of the workers?All of their silences would make any one ask whether the Government, the MLA(s) and the M.P of the region were rather elected by a minority i.e. the handful of lobbying planters. It raises doubt as to who these political representatives from the region are really accountable to? Why haven’t they been able to utter a single word against such an inhuman and deplorable attempt by the D.T.A& C.C.P.A to open and operate tea plantations?

While the whole world is gearing towards international solidarity to fight a global pandemic as it has become impossible for any country to fight it alone. Darjeeling’s manypetty minded planters/ owners are lobbying through D.T.A & C.C.P.A for their parochial interests. To the extent of risking a major section of the Gorkha- Adivasi population who are prominently tea plantation labourers. Their deplorable and inhuman appeal is nothing else but the manifestation of their crude and cruel vision to exploit the workers. Instead of the relieving the labourers fromwork, so they too may stay in house quarantines, by providing them wages in advance, ration and other basic amenities to protect themselves, the D.T.A& C.C.P.A has shown their true oppressive and exploitative character. We thoroughly condemn every word and intention of their attempt to operate Tea Plantations in Darjeeling and stand in complete solidarity with the Workers in such trying times. Hence we demand the State Government to rather ensure that the tea plantation owners' must pay the workers their full wages in advance during the entire lockdown period.

Only way to fight corona in Darjeeling- Shut down the Tea Plantations!

Gorkha Students, JNU                     
Date: 28/03/2020

Darjeeling tea Workers on a hunger strike for a 20% annual festive bonus.

5:45 PM
As you sip your favourite Darjeeling tea planning how to enjoy this festive season, tea garden workers in Darjeeling are on a hunger strike for a 20% annual festive bonus.

A 12 hour bandh has also been called in Darjeeling Hills tomorrow. Union leaders plan to hold hunger strikes 'in front of garden offices' from Thursday. Tamang, the Morcha leader, has announced 'an indefinite hunger strike' from October 6 if the bonus issue is not resolved by Friday.
Darjeeling tea Workers on a hunger strike for a 20% annual festive bonus.
Darjeeling tea Workers. 

The hills have not witnessed such a protest since the 104-day shutdown in September 2017

All seven trade unions of about 87 tea estates of Darjeeling in West Bengal have called for a 12-hour strike on Friday after the failure in talks between leaders of unions and the managements of gardens over the bonus issue. The unions have given a "bandh call" from 6 am to 6 pm on October 4, a trade union leader said. Trade Union Leaders and workers of Darjeeling Hill Tea Industry are observing hunger strike in demand of payment of 20% Bonus in Darjeeling town and tea gardens. Tomorrow will be 12 hours work off in Darjeeling hill.
Kalimpong to Join in the 12 Hour Bandh on October 4. Kalimpong has decided to join in the 12 hour bandh scheduled for October 4 in the Darjeeling Hills.

Bhuwan Khanal, Spokesperson, Gorkha Janmukti Morcha talking to media persons in Kalimpong on Thursday stated "Expressing solidarity with our garden workers Kalimpong district will also remain closed on October 4 for 12 hours. Business establishments will remain closed and vehicles will not ply. However emergency services have been kept out of the purview of the bandh."

Out of the 87 gardens in the Hills, 6 fall in the Kalimpong district. The bandh is in protest against the management failing to disburse bonus before the festive season. While the trade unions have demanded 20% bonus, the management is not willing to climb up from 15%. Multiple rounds of talks have failed to break the deadlock.


Darjeeling MP Raju Bista elected as a member of the Tea Board

5:16 PM
Darjeeling MP Raju Bista has been elected as one of the members of the Tea Board of India. When he was asked by a journalist about his further course of action after being elected, he responded as follows:

"As you are aware the Darjeeling Hills, Terai and Dooars along with neigbouring Assam produce some of the finest tea in the world, yet this industry is gradually dying.

Numerous gardens in our region have shut down, the tea garden workers and their families are suffering, and at the same time our tea industry is facing increasing competition internationally.

 My role will be to bring together all the stakeholders – workers, government, and industry representatives to develop a possible road map for the rights of the workers to be protected, rejuvenation of the tea industry in India, and create a healthy win-win situation for everyone.

I will be pushing for a comprehensive review of the Plantation Labours Act 1951, and implementation of the Minimum Wages Act. I am sure other members also share similar sentiments, so we will all work together to make this happen."

MINIMUM WAGES –Tea Garden Workers and Vultures

8:51 PM
Writes: Chandan Pariyar

It’s time for the Monsoon flush, fighting with the wind and the rain women are seen bent at their waist behind the tea bush, plucking the tea leaves and carefully tucking it inside the cane basket hung on their head.

Their sunburnt faces and the frostbitten hands may tell you hundreds of stories of betrayal and vaguely inferior complexities that keeps swaying in the forest and the tea gardens. Each one of them though in the group, instinctively try to listen to the voice echoing in the valley, but the good news of their wage hike seems to be lost within the mountains. At the end of the day, a disappointed murmur overwhelms them and the group members’ console each other and instinctively protect themselves from the shock and pain, of expectations not being met once again.
MINIMUM WAGES –Tea Garden Workers and Vultures

When the world get their pot full of Darjeeling tea in the morning, they praise the aroma and the exquisite flavour that lightens up their day, but don’t even give a thought to the diligent workers who work in the Sun and the rain alike making white, black, green or oolong tea, bumping in the hump of the garden, steadily collecting each new bud, and moving from one stunted shrub to the other. While many flock to the factories, managing the quality and protecting for future use, but the chemistry between the tea workers and the tea seems unmatched when Makaibari tea makes 1,10,000 rupees per kg in the foreign market, the workers receive in return of their gratitude a sum of rupees 132 per day.

Needless to say that the gardens thirst for their blood and the workers have no choice but to sacrifice their lives in the tea bushes.

No one is free in a TEA-Estate, how can one be free ????

When you can’t move out of the plantation, since four or five  generation your family is engaged in the gardens but still you don’t have any rights over your own land, you can’t get anything from the forest, the rivers are dammed, the quarries closed, how can one survive with such meagre income, when  there's nothing to supplement your income; and if you don’t work in the estates, you become homeless.

Where would they go??

Their son's shoulder is laden less with the responsibility of a family and more with rifles and the responsibility of protecting the nation, and back home there is serious worry about Displacement.

So the workers who produce the 'Champagne of teas ', had to be grown to imitate the three wise monkeys - speak not, see not, and hear not until the day, God turned his attention to the tea.

But Darjeeling has uncrowned kings here and there, who make unwanted noise to wake up people from those tea gardens – promising the heavens and their rightful wages and facilities. Their fates seem so uncertain, that the tea garden workers are forgotten in barely a week. The people have no remorse, but each one of those celebrity lions inevitably brought their bill and took their money, from the garden owners.

So each time when the sky promises a thunderstorm, one of them enters the garden, but every time with a different frequency, the challenge is to bring all of them in the same frequency. Sometimes Siliguri, Kolkata, Darjeeling, Babus hold meetings and send back a hike as less as Rs 4 and attach a letter for the loss of 104-day strike in the gardens that are still not managed.

The innocent workers look up to the uncrowned king, the king has changed, so has his gestures. With hands in the pocket, the local garden commander looks up at the vultures soaring high around the garden.

He thinks to himself, maybe there is still a little more the workers have to sacrifice to get the MINIMUM WAGE.

Via: The Darjeeling Chronicle

GlenburnTea Worker has to pay 188 days of work to stay in their Resort

8:58 AM
IS IT FAIR: Glenburn Tea Garden Workers Will Have to Work 188 Days to Afford One Night Stay in Their Resort

Various terms are used to make the tourism-based out of tea gardens sound romantic - 'Heritage Tea Tourism" though is the most popular. Not many bother to ask whose heritage?

These days the companies that own tea gardens are also running exorbitantly priced tourism operations. Without any of the benefits trickling down to the actual tea garden workers. They have no share in profit earnings from the tea gardens or the tourism that is run in their backyard.

The subversion of tea gardens, into a tourism hub has been very subtle and on the very sly. There is no provision under the West Bengal Estates Acquisition Act, 1953, for such subversions of tea garden lands. The act specifically specifies that "the land can only be leased out for tea cultivation. The lessee or the company, without reducing the plantation area, may use the land for horticulture and growing medicinal plants on an area not more than 3 percent of the total grant area of the garden."

Yet numerous tea companies are running tourism activities, with whose permission?

Look at this, a one night stay for an individual at Glenburn Tea Estate costs roughly Rs 25000 per night. Yes, it includes food and transport and other facilities for the guest.

But do a rough math.

To be able to afford to stay ONE NIGHT at Glenburn Tea Tourism resort and enjoy the associated facilities, a tea garden worker from Glenburn has to work for 188 days - over 6 months, (assuming s/he can save all her/his wages during that time).

IS IT FAIR?

The tea garden workers are only asking for the implementation of the Minimum Wages Act in the tea gardens of Darjeeling and Dooars. All of your support is needed.

Via DAWN

Rs.172 - Price of blood, sweat and life of a Tea garden worker in Gorkhaland!

12:28 PM
‘All wealth is the product of labor’- John Locke 

Tea plantations of Darjeeling, Dooars and Terai encompass the two extremes of human existence, the unimaginable opulence of Tea garden owners and the abject impoverishment of workers. Behind the idyllic hills, the scenic gardens, the “romance of the two leaves and a bud”, and the “smiling faces” of the workers, what remains carefully hidden is the ugly truth of sub-human wages, more than a thousand starvation deaths, and seething anger.
Tea workers in Gorkhaland

The ongoing wage negotiations for tea gardens in the Hills, Dooars & Terai has yet again brought to fore what the West Bengal government and the industry wishes to brush under the carpet. It is another manifestation of the complicity of the state in depriving the workers of their basic minimum level of sustenance. Darjeeling tea derived its value (even has its own Geographical Indication-GI mark) from its qualitative excellence and high exportability. Darjeeling, Dooars and Tarai produces one of finest and most sought after tea in the international market (Iran, Japan, UK, Russia, UAE). Such is the demand for Darjeeling tea that in the year 2016 the finest quality of Darjeeling tea was sold at Rs 1.12 lakh per kg. Tea industry makes valuable contribution to both Central and State Government coffers by way of different Central and State taxes. The West Bengal State enjoys approximately 1500 crores of revenue generated from tea gardens annually along with the revenue from tea tourism, forest, hydel project etc. However, the contributions of the tea garden workers have been rewarded by hardship, struggle, denial of basic rights, untimely medical facilities, forced lockdown of tea gardens and starvation deaths. This perennial appalling condition has compelled the workers of 273 tea gardens to hit the streets and raise their voice for higher wages. Examining the closest history, the wage of workers’ was Rs.45 per day in 2001, Rs. 90 per day in 2010 and Rs.95 per day in 2011. After repeated pressure from workers trade unions, it was increased to Rs 132.50 in 2016. In February 2018, the wage was decided upon as Rs 150/day. However, following the disagreements and protests from the tea gardens workers trade unions, the planters agreed to increase the wage only to Rs 172 per day on 5th August 2018, which the workers have out rightly rejected.

How low is the wage rate in tea gardens?
First, workers of Darjeeling, Dooars, Tarai and Assam are paid the lowest wage among all tea plantations located in India. Eg. Tamil Nadu pays Rs. 303, Karnataka pays Rs 317 while Kerala pays Rs. 600 per day. Ironically tea produced from these locations are not much demanded in international market and fetches low price, even then the tea garden owners are able to pay decent wages more than that of Darjeeling. Secondly, wages of tea garden workers of Darjeeling, Dooars and Tarai is even lower than the government mandated minimum wages in similar occupations in West Bengal. The recently proposed wage rate by the planters and state government for the tea garden workers of Darjeeling, Dooars and Terai is Rs 172, which is even lower than minimum wage paid in Cinchona plantation located in the same region (Rs. 211), in Beedi leaf plucking (Rs. 255), in Agriculture (Rs 278). Thirdly, the money wage was Rs 90 in 2010 and it was proposed to be hiked to Rs 172 on 5th August, 2018. However, if we take into account the rising living expenses (due to rising prices over time-inflation), the real wage (what money wage is able to buy in terms of goods and services) hike is miniscule in terms of purchasing power. For e.g. the goods and services, which could be purchased using Rs. 90 in 2010, will cost Rs.141 in 2018. Even Rs.90 in 2010 was the lowest wage received by workers among workers in other industries during that time. This implies that workers until last year (Rs 132.5 in 2017) were not even getting wage, which could buy same amount of goods they used to buy with Rs. 90 in 2010. Similarly, Rs 172 of 2018 will only buy the same amount of goods what workers could have bought with Rs.109 in 2010. This means that the wage hike proposed by planters is very low if we take into account the rising daily expenses of tea garden workers. Workers are demanding Rs 239.82 as minimum wage, which is just equal to the purchasing power of Rs 152 of 2010. The minimum wage of Rs 239.82 is not even 40% of minimum wage of tea garden workers in Kerala. In an era where LPG refilling costs around Rs 1000, the tea garden workers are bound to survive on a monthly average income of Rs 5000. Since, tea garden is the main source of income for the families, it is beyond impossible to maintain a decent livelihood with such a minimum wage leading intergenerational poverty trap. Contrary to this deplorable condition of workers, the CEO of a tea company (Goodricke Group Limited, Annual Report, 2017-18) has a salary scale of Rs. 4-7 lakhs per month with additional Rs. 50,000 special allowance per month.
What do various reports say? Nearly 1500 tea plantation workers of Dooars and Terai have died due to starvation in the last ten years. According to the state government’s Labour Department Survey (2013) report, nearly Rs 47 crore rupees of provident fund was unpaid to workers in 75 tea gardens in 2013. Around 80% of the gardens had no medical staff and most of the gardens had no access to basic health facilities. The International Labour Organisation in its 2005 report clearly states that the Tea Board, which is the regulating authority of the Tea Industry, has failed to fulfill its stipulated function. They have continuously ignored wage and provident fund defaults of tea gardens, while portraying this crisis only as a marketing mismanagement. The ILO report also suspects that there is collusion between the planters and the State, which is highlighted by the non-implementation of the Tea Act, 1953. Studies show that 70% of the people of the closed tea gardens suffer from chronic energy deficiency III stage. The scale of deprivation and dispossession of livelihoods is such that the workers are forced to languish till they die of hunger and malnutrition. The Supreme Court’s order (dated 06.08.10) categorically asked the Government of India to carry out its statutory duty under Tea Act 1953. This allows the central government to take over the management/control of sick tea gardens (under section 16 B/D/E of the Act) and take steps thereafter to ensure that the interest of the workers are well protected and dues are all paid in time but such clauses never get invoked to protect the interest of the workers. Such low wages and exploitative conditions have resulted in large migration of workers from the tea estate. Human trafficking is also very rampant in the region. A report of a joint study by Unicef, Save the Children and Burdwan University (in 2010) estimates around 3,500 minors alone were trafficked from 12 gardens of Dooars alone.

We reject the recent offers by the Planters and Government of abysmally low wage hike from Rs.150 to Rs. 172.
We demand: 1. Declare and implement decent Minimum Wage for tea Plantation workers equivalent to that of state of Kerala 2. Grant legal ownership of land rights to workers 3. Reopen closed and abandoned tea estates immediately 4. Casual labour in tea gardens should be regularised as soon as possible 5. Backlog of unpaid provident fund and gratuity should be cleared immediately. We salute and stand in solidarity with the uncompromising struggle of workers for their rightful demand. Any attempt to break the unity of the workers or dilute the demands or betray the struggle must be resisted at all cost.

Gorkha Students, JNU Issued on 13/08/18

Darjeeling tea gardens have become a hotbed for trafficking

Tea gardens that once brewed the world-famous Darjeeling tea have now become a hotbed for trafficking, owing to the undermining of labour rights and rising deprivation.

The Dooars region of West Bengal is known for its alluvial soil and cool climatic conditions, making it a fertile ground for tea gardens. But as tea gardens shut owing to financial and operational constraints, they have in turn become a fertile ground for human trafficking. As production declines, exploitation and deprivation rise.

Pooja was trafficked from Chuapara Tea Estate, Alipurduar, in 2013, when she was 13 years old. She was taken to Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir, and sold to a ‘placement agency’ called City Service. Two more girls and two boys were also sold to the agency at the same time. Muskan Khatun, the main accused, insisted that she was actually 16 when she was trafficked and that she went with the agents despite Khatun’s warning her against it. Community Correspondent Harihar Nagbansi, reporting on the case, accessed her birth certificate which proved that she was 13 at the time she was trafficked.  Regardless of whether she was 13 or 16, she was still a minor who was illegally taken away and sold for domestic labour, quite possibly in highly exploitative conditions. For four years, the family could do nothing but wait.

Pooja was brought back home in April 2018, thanks to the local police that tagged team with the Jammu and Kashmir police. It was Harihar’s video, along with the efforts of NGOs like Kripa and Bachpan Bachao Andolan, that got the police to act with urgency. Harihar also credits Chandmuni, Pooja’s mother, for her determination. But the story does not end here, because what happened with Pooja was not an isolated case and not a problem unique to Chuapara alone.

Trafficking is an organised crime, across domestic and international borders. The numbers from the latest National Crime Records Bureau data, speak for themselves. 8,057 persons were reported to be trafficked in 2016. 44% of the cases were reported from West Bengal, of these, the largest proportion was of minor girls. And these are only the on-record figures. Police apathy, lack of awareness and stigma are known to be some of the reasons human trafficking is underreported.

While Pooja was fortunate to be brought back, the other children who were taken with her are still in Srinagar. On an average, 174 children go missing in India every day. Unlike Chandmuni, many parents do not even have a lead. Moreover, trafficked persons are often sold many times over, making it all the more difficult to trace them. In the worst cases, they are killed by those who keep them as bonded slaves.

Underlying causes
Poor economic conditions, lack of educational opportunities, social exclusion and isolation, make people vulnerable to trafficking. At the other end of this deal are rapid urbanisation and the consequent want for cheap labour in other parts of the country. Placement agencies that supply cheap labour to middle and upper-class households in metropolitan cities, to development projects, to brothels, and to villages in Punjab and Haryana as brides.
Minors are particularly vulnerable to trafficking. Presented with the prospects of a glamorous city life, many children might choose to escape from their present living conditions. Khatun also said the same thing about Pooja, that she consented to go despite warnings. But the crucial difference here is that children, and even adults, might give consent but not informed consent. To a 13-year-old living in harsh poverty, the prospect of living in a city and having access to facilities, even at the cost of some labour, might sound appealing. In fact, sometimes, children who are brought back often get tricked into being trafficked once again.

Why tea gardens?
The tea industry is touted as the country’s second largest employer, but also an industry that undermines labour rights and deprives workers and their families deprived of the most basic needs. There’s widespread poverty and malnutrition, obvious factors underscoring the desire for a better life. The availability of basic facilities like healthcare and education is also poor. Wages are as low as ₹132 a day, says Harihar, especially in Dooars. And sometimes, even this wage is not paid on time, never mind the bonus.

As the tea shrubs age, production declines and many tea gardens and tea factories shut down temporarily or permanently without rehabilitating their workers. Political instability in the Darjeeling hills, which has spread to the foothills, has also taken a toll, especially on already-sick tea gardens. Of the 60 tea gardens in Alipurduar, 28 are sick or stressed and six entirely shut. To make ends meet, some take up stone-crushing, and others continue to work in the tea gardens but for independent contractors; both jobs pay even lower.

In the Dooars region, the majority of the workers are Adivasis whose families migrated to the foothills generations ago, mostly from what is present-day Jharkhand. In a state and an industry dominated by upper-caste and upper-class Bengalis and business communities, Adivasi lives are already valued less, isolating them socially and culturally. In such a situation, both migration and trafficking abound.
Dooars is also contiguous with the ‘chicken-neck’ area on the map of India, a narrow region neighbouring Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan, all porous borders. Women and children are often trafficked from both sides of these borders, for manual and sexual labour.

What is being done to combat it?
When Harihar asks Chandmuni what she will do to ensure that her daughter is not taken away again, she says that she will engage her in some work and even educate her if she wants to study. The lack of rehabilitation facilities for those rescued coupled with stigma, especially for girls who are trafficked, make it difficult for children to adjust to life in their homes once again.
However, education, like Chandmuni points out, is an important step. Binay Narjenary, a representative of Kripa, says that awareness is crucial. “People must be made aware of the problems girls and women face, and then take steps to ensure their safety”, he says.

NGOs seem to be at the forefront of tackling the problem, as of now. But local NGOs have limitations in curbing a country-wide crime with networks and nodes that cannot be traced. They can provide support in individual cases, but putting an end to trafficking requires the active participation of the state.

To this end, the government introduced the Anti-Trafficking Bill which has recently been passed by the Lok Sabha. But the Bill, unfortunately, does more injustice than justice. To begin with, it continues to criminalise victims of trafficking by trying them for working without authorisation in case of domestic labour or soliciting in case of sexual labour. Moreover, it runs into the danger of conflating migration and trafficking; both phenomena might have similar underlying causes, but the former is voluntary and cannot be penalised. The Bill also recommends rehabilitation measures like state-run shelter homes, which have been rejected by bodies like the UN.

If passed, the Bill will be an insensitive piece of legislation, even on paper. While on the ground, no legislation is enough to change attitudes towards trafficking or to break the silence around it. Combined efforts by local communities, NGOs, individuals and state officials, like in Pooja’s case, are a beginning, but long-term solutions will come from regular awareness, sensitive laws, efficient implementation and socio-economic development and sustainable livelihoods.

Article by Alankrita Anand

Via YKA
 
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