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Wage hike call by tea workers

Bibek Das addresses the media on Friday. Picture by UB Photos

Guwahati: Several tea workers' welfare organisations and trade unions have formed a joint action committee for tea workers wage forum and will organise a mass rally to demand increase in the daily wage of tea workers from Rs 137 to Rs 350.

The joint forum will organise a "justice rally" in Guwahati on Monday.

The forum includes the All Adivasi Students' Association of Assam (AASAA), Asom Sangrami Chah Sramik Sangha, Chah Sramik Mukti Sangram Samiti, Asom Mazuri Sramik Union, Asom Mazdoor Union, Assam Tea Labourer Union and the Sadou Asom Adivasi Mahila Samiti.

Forum leaders said Union labour minister Santosh Gangwar had announced that the wages of tea workers in Assam would be raised to Rs 350 and had asked the state government to set up a wage revision board.

Asom Sangrami Chah Sramik Sangha president Bibek Das said, "Prior to the Lok Sabha elections, Narendra Modi had announced that tea workers in Assam would get wages on a par with other states. After formation of the BJP government, central minister Nirmala Sitharaman had said the same thing during her visit to the state. Tea workers in Kerala get a daily wage of Rs 310.08, in Karnataka Rs 263.21 and Rs 241.31 in Tamil Nadu. But tea workers here get only Rs 137. Moreover, the wages in those states will be increased next year. There is no reason why the wages here cannot be increased to Rs 350. If 'one country, one tax' policy can be implemented by the Centre, why not one wage policy?"

The forum's constituents said the wage revision board constituted by the state government comprised government officials, tea owners' representatives and tea garden employees but did not represent workers.

They said such a board would not be able to fear safeguarded the interests of tea workers.

AASAA president Stephen Lakra said, "We are demanding increase in wages to cope with rising prices of essential commodities. Tea workers are living in abysmal conditions and the government should do something about it."

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