The Telegraph
Tuesday , August 5 , 2014
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Joint effort to hike tea wages

- Three student unions team up to put pressure on Dispur

Guwahati, Aug. 4: Three student unions — All Adivasi Students Association of Assam (AASAA), AASU and Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuva Chatra Parishad (AJYCP) — today decided to join hands to put pressure on the state government to increase the daily wage of tea garden workers from Rs 94 to Rs 330.

After a state-level convention on the daily wages of tea garden workers, the student unions said they would jointly work for implementation of the minimum wages and their increase as tea garden labourers were struggling to cope with the rising prices.

“According to the existing norms, the minimum daily wage in Assam is Rs 169 but the tea garden labourers are being paid Rs 94 only. The state government has failed to ensure implementation of the minimum wage rate in tea gardens despite our demand from time to time. As a result, 13 lakh labourers working in more than 850 tea gardens are deprived of their right of minimum wages. So, we have decided to join hands with organisations such as AASU and AJYCP and launch a vigorous movement in support of our demands,” Wilson Hasda, adviser to AASAA, said.

Hasda said about 30 lakh people, comprising family members of the daily labourers in the state, depend on the tea industry for survival.

“Besides many labourers are working in small tea gardens. But they are not getting proper facilities of healthcare, education and housing. As a result, women in tea gardens are anaemic and their children are malnourished,” he said.

“Assam contributes more than 50 per cent of the tea produced by India and Assam government is earning huge revenue as royalty. But those working hard in tea gardens are so badly paid. Tamil Nadu pays of Rs 256 as daily wage to tea garden workers although their minimum wage is Rs 224.”

The president of AASAA, Raphael Kujur, said today’s convention decided to form a co-ordination committee comprising various like-minded organisations to press for the hike in wages. “We demand that a separate wage board should be formed specially for the tea industry. The negotiation and agreement on wage should be between Consultative Committee for Plantations Association and trade unions,” Kujur said.

AASAA publicity secretary Malkash Toppo said they were demanding Rs 330 as daily wages as a tea worker needed at least Rs 10,000 per month to run his family.

AJYCP leader Manoj Baruah said they would work together with AASAA to ensure that the tea garden workers were paid better wages and they were given land allotment.

AASU’s central finance secretary, Tularam Gogoi also extended support to the cause.