GUWAHATI: “Rs 50 hike? The ministers must be drinking a cup of tea in a five-star hotel which is more expensive than the total daily wage of a tea garden labour in Assam,” reacted Sonali Orang, a tea garden worker from Golaghat district.
Her reaction came immediately after the Assam cabinet on Saturday decided to hike the daily wage of tea garden workers from the existing Rs 167 to Rs 217, an increase of Rs 50.
The tea garden community has been demanding a minimum daily wage of Rs 351 for a long time and before coming to power in 2016 in Assam, the BJP had promised to raise the daily wage as proposed by the advisory board for tea workers. Despite producing more than half of all tea grown in India, and with more than a million workers being employed, tea garden workers in Assam get a meager daily wage of Rs 167 only.
For All Adivasi Students’ Association of Assam (AASAA) general secretary Deben Orang, the announcement was nothing but a poll gimmick only. He said, “Prime Minister Modi had promised that the daily wage would be hiked to Rs 351 but the announcement of Rs 50 hike is far away from expectation. It’s an insult to the community people. Don’t they know in this age of inflation, what a tea garden worker’s family can buy for Rs 50?”
The student leader said that they would never except it and continued to demand for justice.
While asked on the alleged meagre hike, state’s parliamentary minister Chandra Mohan Patowary said that the daily wage of the tea garden workers was earlier increased by Rs 30 during the BJP regime and now, with an increase of Rs 50, the BJP government has hiked the wage by a total of Rs 80. Patowary also said that tea garden workers will also be provided Rs 101 per day for rations.
“The allotment for ration has been always there and why would the state government add this to their credit? If BJP is thinking that they can fool us with such hypocrisy only to overcome the poll equations then they must realize that it’s not going to work,” Orang added.
In the House of 126 in Assam, votes of tea garden workers work as a deciding factor in some 40-42 seats in Upper, Central, and Northern Assam besides Barak Valley.
“Modi who often refers to himself as a ‘Chaiwala’ has failed to address the plight of tea workers. The BJP government while coming to power in Assam in 2016 had promised to hike the daily wage but nothing has been done so far,” alleged Rupesh Gowala, secretary of Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha (ACMS).
In Kerala get a minimum daily wage of Rs 310 while in Karnataka it is Rs 263 and Rs 241 in Tamil Nadu, he informed.
Brought to Assam by the British from central India’s Chotanagpur plateau for tea cultivation during the early 19th Century, the Adivasi tea tribe community living in other parts of the country enjoying ST status. However, the same has been deprived in Assam on the ground that the list of STs is accorded to each state or Union Territory is valid only within that particular jurisdiction.
Promises of granting ST status to the tea tribe community and wage hike have remained as a poll plank in Assam for ages.