The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Raise for Nepal tea workers
- Hope for less smuggling after cost price goes up

Darjeeling, Sept. 3: The decision of the Nepalese tea industry to increase the wages of its workers has come as a welcome relief to its counterpart in Darjeeling, who hope that it will stop the illegal entry of green tealeaves from the neighbouring country.

Following a two-week agitation, jointly led by the Independent Tea Plantation Workers’ Union of Nepal, Nepal Tea Plantation Workers’ Union and All Nepal Tea Plantation Workers’ Union, the Tea Producer’s Association decided to raise the wages by almost 28.33 per cent. After the rise, a tea worker in Nepal will receive 95 Nepalese Rupees (NR), which will be a huge leap from the earlier 74 NR, while their counterparts here get 81.44 NR.

It has also increased the rate of additional tea plucked (more than 26 kg per day) from 1 NR to 1.15 NR and has also decided to pay Dashain allowance (annual bonus).

According to planters in the hills, the rise in wages of Nepalese workers will result in an increase in the production cost of the tea, which will make smuggling of tealeaves as Darjeeling Tea unviable. “With the cost price going up in Nepal, the profit from the sale of pilfered tealeaves will no longer be as high as before. This will help check the stealing of green leaves to Darjeeling,” said Harish Mukhia, a planter in Darjeeling.

Though workers in Nepal will be paid a higher wage, the cost of production will still remain less than that in Darjeeling. This is largely due to the fact that unlike their counterpart in Nepal, the Indian tea industry has to bear additional social costs, like free ration, housing and provident funds for workers. However, there is a possibility that the Nepal industry might be forced to accept the social responsibilities too, said a source.

Nepalese planters have also decided to form a task force, which will look into various demands of workers. Moreover the trade unions and management have decided to form a labour relation committee.

“If the Nepalese tea industry also starts bearing social responsibility, the cost of production will no longer remain so low. Then, we can expect a substantial fall in the smuggling of leaves,” said Mukhia.

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