Assam Tea Laborers in Limbo With Private Parties Taking Over Gardens

The Bijulibari Tea Estate in Dibrugarh’s Duliajan area has witnessed a week-long protest by the Assam Tea Tribes Students’ Association (ATTSA) against the proposed sale of garden land to private parties.
Assam Tea Laborers
Assam Tea LaborersPicture Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

New Delhi: A cloud of distrust hangs on tea garden workers in Assam because of a perception that they keep changing employers. It has also created a shadow of uncertainty on their future.

The Bijulibari Tea Estate in the Duliajan area of Dibrugarh district has been witnessing a series of protests for the last one week by members of the Assam Tea Tribes Students’ Association (ATTSA). The agitation has been triggered by the management’s decision of selling of garden land to private parties.

They chanted anti-garden slogans, arguing that the administration was acting without taking into account the possible impact on the hundreds of tea workers who work there.

The demonstrators alleged the garden site is gradually being sold to private parties, who are then spending the money to build homes and businesses.

“Earlier, there were big corporations handling tea gardens in the state. But now, because of mismanagement, many are selling their gardens to private parties and getting out of the business,” ATTSA President Bimal Bagh told The Mooknayak.

Taking about entrace of smaller private players in the business, he said the main point of contention, which is people/parties, buying the tea gardens but not taking care of the workers as they should.

“The new private players are smaller companies or few people who have come together to invest, thinking of it as just a business. But that is not the case. There are workers who are dependent on it and whose life and resources are unfortunately dependent on these people. Also, most of these people do not have an idea of how to manage tea gardens,” he said.

Warren Tea Pvt Ltd and Assam Tea Company, he said, are some of the big companies that are still in the business, but they too lack the means to aid the tea garden workers. “They are not able to pay gratuity to the retired laborers nor are they able to provide wages at the right time,” he said.

Apart from the influx of multiple third parties, the workers have been facing issues which remain unchanged for decades. “We have been implementation of the Labour Tea Plantation Act 1951,” added the president of the association’s Dibguragh chapter.

He said, “First and foremost, we want a minimum daily wage of Rs 351. We also want an unadulterated and nutritious ration. It has been 200 years, but we still await pattas (land deeds).” 

Providing land to the plantation workers has always been a controversial point. Many state governments have promised the communities that they will be providing them rights over their own land.

A report by the Times of India published in June 2023 quoted ATTSA Dibrugarh District General Secretary Lakhindra Kurmi as saying, “The tea community consists of 20% of the state’s population, which should be around 70 lakhs today. But the community is still the most deprived and exploited in the state.”

“In 2016, the BJP promised to grant land rights to all landless tea workers of the state but in reality, less than 10% of them have been alotted pattas. Before every election, political parties promise various benefits to workers, but nothing is done after the polls are over,” he said.

Bagh also talked about the “empty promises” of the state government. “The BJP government, before winning the elections, had promised the marginalised communities that they would make our lives better, but the assurance is yet to see light of the day,” he said.

Buneswar Bhumij, executive member of the ATTSA’s Dinjan Sub Branch, told The Mooknayak, “In the past, rooms were whitewashed, drains emptied and water brought regularly, but recently all this has stopped. Tea garden workers have to build their own toilets, and no company is ready to help them.”

“The corporates only care about picking the tea leaves and making a profit out of the sale. They do not care about our lives at all,” he stated.

Assam Tea Laborers
Gujarat: Report in HC Reveals NLU Students Faced ‘Rape’, ‘Molestation’, ‘Homophobia’ While Administration Remained Mute Spectators
Assam Tea Laborers
Anti-Evangelism Act to Warning for Convent Institutions, How Christian Community in Assam is Facing ‘Constant Attacks’
Assam Tea Laborers
Protesting Candidates, Demanding Their Recruitment as Teachers Remain Unfazed by Crackdown

You can also join our WhatsApp group to get premium and selected news of The Mooknayak on WhatsApp. Click here to join the WhatsApp group.

Related Stories

No stories found.
The Mooknayak English - Voice Of The Voiceless