The Assam Tea Tribes Students’ Association (ATTSA) has accused the state government and the tea industry of putting the lives of garden workers in danger by making them work at a time when the entire country is observing a lockdown in the wake of Covid-19 outbreak.
ATTSA president Dhiraj Gowala told this correspondent that following a state government order to carry out specific operations in the tea gardens during the lockdown period, the management in many gardens have engaged its labourers in various activities. “This is inhuman and we are strongly opposed to the move,” he said.
The Assam Valley branch of the Consultative Committee of Plantation Associations had requested the government on March 24 to exempt tea gardens from specific operations, especially spraying of insecticides and pesticides and irrigation, during the lockdown period. The CCPA observed that if adequate plant protection measures were not taken there could be huge and permanent danger to tea plants.
Gowala alleged that no protective gear had been given to the workers engaged in spraying activities. “Only a few gardens have these gears for the labourers,” he said, adding that in many gardens no executive were seen monitoring these activities. “Only the labourers are exposed to the danger while the executives are safely taking shelter inside their bungalows,” he alleged.
Gowala said that ATTSA would make the government responsible if any labourer gets infected with coronavirus. “With limited medical facilities in tea gardens, there would be a disaster if the virus somehow managed to enter the gardens,” he warned.
The industry has appealed to the government to bail it out by taking care of workers’ salary during the lockdown.