Ms Nirmala Sitharaman
Honourable Minister of State (Independent Charge)
Government of India, New Delhi.
Camp – The venue of Meeting convened at her behest on tea issue in Guwahati.
Sub – Memorandum on tea-worker’s issues.
Most humbly and respectfully, we would like to place before you the following points on the plight of the tea workers of Assam through this Memorandum being submitted by us in the meeting convened at your behest with a view to resolve the longstanding plight of the workers.
This is for favour of your kind perusal and needful action.
(1) On the issue of Minimum wage.
The minimum wage schedule officially announced by the state government reveals that the plantation workers are also included in the schedule which is effective up to 31st august, 2014 and accordingly the minimum wage circular being issued by the labour commissioner bi-annually considering the VDA component is also applicable for tea-workers of Assam. According to this schedule, the minimum wage for unskilled tea-workers is Rs.169 up to 31st August, 2014 and Rs. 184 w.e.f 1st September, 2014. The current wage settled through bipartite negotiation is of the tune of Rs. 94 for Brahmhaputra valley garden and Rs. 75 for Barak valley gardens for wage in cash. Many gardens pay less than this negotiated wage too. As per the information provided by the Assam Branch of Indian Tea Association (ABITA) on the daily labour Cost in Assam from 1st April 2011 to 30the June 2012, the wage component in cash is Rs.74.50, wage component in kind is Rs. 22.40, Statutory expenditure under Plantation Labour Act is Rs.23.79 and under common statutory expenditure like Provident fund, Bonus, gratuity etc is Rs. 25.67 and total comes to Rs.146.36 per day per worker. ABITA calculation says that 16.25% of the total labour cost of Rs.146.36 as on June 2012 is on account of meeting the statutory provisions under the PLA (Plantation Labour Act) viz. housing facilities, medical facilities, welfare facilities, national (festival) holidays, sickness benefits, earned leave, educational facilities and maternity benefits. Wage calculation in this way comes only under living wage which will be far more than the minimum wage announced by the state government. While for employers these are cost enhancing, for workers these are inadequate to raise their standard of living. Actual wage (the cash plus money equivalent of kind) the workers have been paid is of the amount of Rs 96.90 as per the above ABITA’s calculation during the period of 1st April 2011 to 30th June 2012.
It is worth-mentioning here that our union was invited by the state labour department in the first round of tripartite negotiation during the last wage settlement. But unfortunately, pending this tripartite negotiation process, the wage was settled through bipartite negotiation between the owners and INTUC affiliated union despite our dissension. But after the declaration of Minimum wage schedule by the state government, any bi-partite wage settlement below the stipulated minimum wage needs to be treated as null and void, and the minimum wage as announced in the minimum wage schedule by the state government must be brought into force immediately.
(2) On wage in kinds
Currently, tea gardens procure wheat and rice at subsidized rates – Rs 8.36 per Kg and Rs. 6.10 per Kg respectively from government quota. It is provided at 54 paise per Kg to workers. A garden worker, as per official norms, gets 3.2 Kg, half of which is rice and other half wheat, per week. An adult dependent and minor dependent get 2.44Kg and 1.22Kg of foodgrain respectively per week. But the women workers who constitute the majority of the manual workers, get the ration of two minor dependents only. The state government has been providing 7,600 tonnes of rice and 5,000 tonnes of wheat each month to the tea garden at subsidized rates. Under the food security act, a beneficiary (each member of the family) will get 5Kg of rice per month at Rs 3 per Kg through the food and civil supply department, which will supply the ration to fair-price shops across the state.
Contd. to page 2
To avail the benefit, a beneficiary’s annual earnings will have to be below Rs 1 lakh and priority will be given to daily-wage earners. So the tea worker’s family will be beneficial if the whole amount of their entitled minimum wage is paid in cash, and as per the above criteria, they all are brought under the net of FSA.
(3) On PF deposit.
Many tea-estates have defaulted in depositing both the contributions from employee and employer in PF account. Moreover, most of the tea-garden authorities do not consider the money equivalent of the wage component in kind under the PF schemes. These gross violations of workers’ rights need to be adequately addressed and the provisions of the Tea Act needs to be applied, wherever necessary, to eradicate the anomalies.
(4) On implementation of the various provisions of PLA
The statutory rights under the Plantation Labour Act are rampantly violated due to lack of proper inspection. The inspectors have kept their inspections limited to specific complaints instead of conducting regular inspections. A presentation by A K Malakar, the previous Labour Commissioner of Assam notes that inspection in the tea estates is done at the consent of the management, when the department is not in a position to provide means of transportation, the management takes an advantageous position in providing vehicles and therefore inspections cannot be impartial. Therefore management escapes prosecution even for grave violations. Penal provision of Rs 500 is ludicrous and is not a deterrent. So PLA, Assam Scheme must be implemented effectively by giving necessary tooth for punitive action for violations of its provisions.
(5) On health-care facility
The condition of the workers even in the Tea-Estates which have been receiving NRHM fund under PPP model is deplorable. For delineating the pathetic condition of Assam tea-workers, suffice it to mention the findings of the Medical research centres of Assam. The case study conducted by the Medical Research Centre, N.E region(ICMR), Dibrugarh, Assam on nutritional status of adolescents in tea-gardens workers reveals that the almost half of the adolescent of tea workers are stunted and most of them are thin. Another study conducted by Medical research and community Medicine department, Assam Medical College, reveals a high prevalence of malnutrition among the school age children in the tea garden workers of Assam and the nature of malnutrition indicates that causes of malnutrition are not only recent but also long term deprivation.
So, the health-care facility and other social security measures need to be improved for the tea- workers in Assam.
(6) On ATC gardens
Finally, Most of the studies reveal that the decline in productivity in Assam is due to the lack of re-investment by the planters for replacement of old tea-plants or bushes most of which are more than 50 years old. Despite increase of labour productivity, the planters are bent on curtailing the rights of the labourers and deprive them of minimum wages.
Thanking you, Yours Truly,
(REPRESENTATIVES PRESENT IN THE MEETING)
ASSAM MOJURI SHRAMIK UNION
Affiliated to New Trade Union Initiative
Address for communication – NTUI and AMSU’s Jorhat Office address.AKHARA GHAR,
Near Jatiya Bhavan, Jatiya Abhidhan Path, Malow Ali,
Cell No. 09435351255, e-mail : email@example.com