Tea wage test from Assam
Siliguri: BJP-ruled Assam government plans to announce an interim tea wage hike that will take workers' pay above those in Bengal posing a challenge to the Mamata Banerjee government.
The labour welfare department of Assam - which has the largest number of tea workers -announced earlier this week that it will soon notify an interim hike of Rs 30 with retrospective effect from March 1 this year. This will take the daily wage, now Rs 137, to Rs 167.
In Bengal, that wage now stands at Rs 150, after the Trinamul government announced an interim hike of Rs 17.50 from January this year.
"After the revised rate (with the interim hike) was implemented, a number of state officials and ministers and even leaders of Trinamul-backed trade unions had emphasised on the point that tea workers here receive more wages than those working in the tea gardens of Assam. But once the announcement of Assam government is implemented, it is obvious that the wage rate in Bengal will be lower," said a tea expert.
Even if the additional sum of Rs 9 that tea planters are paying as a monetised value of the ration, is added, it will still be lower than Rs 167, which is likely to be the revised wage rate in Assam, he pointed.
Both in Assam and Bengal, the minimum wage rate is yet to be fixed and implemented.
The Assam labour department has also announced that a one-member committee would be formed to look into the objections from the Consultative Committee of Plantation Associations (CCPA) - the apex body of tea planters in India - over the composite minimum wage of Rs 351.33, as worked out by the labour commissioner of the state.
"These two announcements are significant and indicate that the BJP government in Assam is keen in resolving the minimum wage issue ahead of the Lok Sabha polls," said a political observer.