The tea industry on Saturday called for support of all stakeholders to move towards electronic payment of wages.
Industry officials at the 130th annual general meeting of the Assam branch of Indian Tea Association in Dibrugarh said banks have agreed to provide support but all stakeholders must also provide support.
Indian Tea Association chairman Vivek Goenka said that at a recent meeting with Union commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal, he had highlighted the fact that the tea industry continues to pay wages in cash because of lack of proper connectivity and infrastructure.
“He, in our presence, spoke to the SBI chairman who in turn spoke to colleagues in Assam and Bengal. We also had a meeting in Guwahati with the chief general manager of SBI, Sunil Tandon, along with chiefs from UCO Bank and Assam Gramin Vikas Bank. They are very keen to assist the industry towards moving 100 per cent into electronic payment of wages. They identified 90 gardens which are members of the Indian Tea Association as a pilot project,” Goenka added.
“The system is yet to kick off despite assistance from the government and the banks. The model, which will entail the use of customer service points and banking correspondents, has been worked out,” he said.
Goenka urged all his colleagues from the tea industry to make this happen.
“This needs to be done in letter and spirit. Having just one customer service point in the garden is hardly adequate. The goal is to pay 100 per cent of wages electronically. All the stakeholders need to expedite the process to ensure that we move to digital payments at the earliest,” Goenka told The Telegraph.
The chairman of the Assam branch of Indian Tea Association, D.J. Baruah, said the requirement for digital payment of workers’ wages requires sufficient bank branches as well as installation of adequate number of ATMs in the areas where tea gardens are located. “There is hardly any banking infrastructure worth the name in the tea areas. We have placed the matter before the government for opening up bank branches in the tea areas as well as installation of sufficient number of ATMs.”
Speaking of the present crisis, industry leaders called for government support to enable the industry to survive and prosper and to keep on supporting the millions of workers who are dependent on the industry for their livelihood.
The principal secretary of panchayat and rural development and labour welfare department, J.B. Ekka, spoke of existing government schemes and called for the involvement of tea gardens.