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Demand for hike in tea wages

Kokrajhar, July 8: The All Adivasi Studentsí Association Assam today took out a procession demanding a hike in the wages of labourers working in tea gardens across Assam.

In Kokrajhar, hundreds of tea garden labourers led by the association participated in the march starting from Daoulabari Tea Estate to Magurmari Bazaar.

The association alleged tea estate labourers were exploited and paid negligible wages.

The association has expressed deep concern over low wages ó a negligible amount of Rs 94 per day ó that is less than the statutory minimum wage.

The associationís central vice-president, Stephen Lakra, said according to the provision in Assam, unskilled labourers should be paid a daily wage of Rs 169 per day but the workers have been receiving only Rs 94 per day.

He said the labourers working in the tea estate were skilled and not unskilled because the Adivasis have been engaged in tea business since the British era. Lakra said their counterparts in Kerala enjoy better pay and other facilities in the estates.

Comparing the stateís labour position with that of Kerala, he said the minimum wage in Assam is Rs 169 but the labourers receive only Rs 94 as daily wage whereas in Kerala, it is Rs 224 but they collect Rs 254 as daily wage.

He said workers in Assam do not get the benefits of overtime dues whereas their counterparts in the south receive twice the wages as overtime duty. 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 for holidays.

The association said a meeting would be held in September-October between the Assam Cha Mazdoor Sangha and the Co-ordination Committee for Plantation Association to discuss the important issues of Assam tea garden workers. The meeting will also discuss ways to ensure that the industry complies with the Constitution and the laws of the Plantation Labour Act 1951 and the Minimum Wages Act, 1948.

The association demanded that the daily wage of the tea workers be raised to Rs 330 per day and that the daily wage should not include expenditure for housing, medical, water, electricity, pension, PF, gratuity and bonus costs.

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