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Centre nixes change in act
- Advisory council recommends review

Guwahati, July 30: The Centre today said it had no immediate plans to amend the Plantations Labour Act, 1951 since no state, including Assam, had submitted such a proposal.

The act, also called PLA 1951, provides for welfare of plantation labourers, including tea, and regulates work conditions in plantations.

The tea industry and students’ organisations have been seeking a review of the act in the light of changes in the nature of the industry.

Recently, the National Advisory Council (NAC), in its report, Welfare of Plantation Labour in India, had also recommended a review of the act to make it more relevant to the present times.

However, Union minister of state for mines, steel, labour and employment, Vishnu Deo Sai, in a written reply tabled in the Rajya Sabha, today said, “As of now, there is no proposal to further amend the Plantations Labour Act 1951,” since no such suggestion had been received from any state government. He was replying to a question by Santiuse Kujur.

The implementation of the act, however, vests with the state governments.

The influential Assam Tea Tribes Students’ Association (ATTSA), which has been calling for amendment to the act, said it was “unfortunate” that the state government had not sent any proposal.

“We have had ministers, earlier and now, who are from the tea tribe community and who should have put pressure on the state government to send a proposal to the Centre for amending the PLA,” ATTSA assistant general secretary Dhiraj Gowala told this correspondent.

A senior tea industry official said there had been no proposal from the Assam government to the Centre to review the PLA.

The NAC report says the review should take into account developments in the tea sector, social legislations enacted for labour welfare and new welfare programmes.

Tea is a major plantation industry in the country — the oldest in the organised manufacturing sector and it has retained its position as the single largest employer in this sector.

“The review of PLA 1951 needs to be looked afresh as the definitions of plantations and workers — in the light of changing nature of tea production systems like the emergence of small tea-growing sector which currently is outside the purview of law and whose numbers are increasing — have to be considered,” the report says.

The act defines a plantation as any land used or intended to be used for growing tea, coffee, rubber, cinchona, cocoa, oil palm and cardamom, which measures five hectares or more and in which 15 or more persons are employed.

“Simultaneously, the nature of plantation workers is also undergoing a transition. More and more casual and seasonal workers, employed by tea plantations, are being excluded from the welfare provided in PLA 1951. There is a need to see how rights and benefits could be extended to this class of workers,” the report adds.

The report says today there are several legislations, enacted over the past decade, as well as flagship programmes implemented by the Centre, which entitle all citizens of the country to food security, basic education, health services, insurance, housing, sanitation, social security and pension, among others.

“A situation cannot be allowed to prevail where workers in isolated enclaves such as tea plantations remain bereft of the universal entitlements conferred by legislations and welfare policies as well as flagship programmes,” it says.