Tea garden workers in Bengal write to CM seeking legally binding wages

Workers of tea gardens in north Bengal have written to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee raising a host of issues concerning them such as wages, ownership of land and financial assistance for closed tea gardens.

“We continue to get only ₹176 that has been determined in an ad hoc manner. Agricultural workers have a minimum wage of ₹257, as do workers in cinchona plantations,” the workers of closed, abandoned and sick gardens said in their letter addressed to the Chief Minister.

The letter sought the government to fix a legally binding minimum wage rate for tea plantation workers and added that though an ‘advisory committee’ for the same was set up in 2014, it has not come up with a figure. The workers raised the issue of harassment by managements when they tried to withdraw their provident fund savings, pension or gratuity and not getting payment of dues (interim relief) as ordered by the Supreme Court.

“The tea plantation workers are also not getting their dues of Financial Assistance to the Workers of Locked Out Industries (FAWLOI) Scheme. Gardens such as Birpara, Torsa and Raimatang have been closed for almost a year but have not received FAWLOI payments, which are supposed to be paid within 3 months of closure,” the letter said.

The letter, signed by representatives of Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity and union leaders of tea garden workers, added that tea plantation workers have no rights on the land they and their ancestors have been working on for over 200 years.

The issue of tea garden workers was raised on several occasions in the administrative meetings chaired by Ms. Banerjee in north Bengal during the day. The Chief Minister said that the State government has started a project called Cha Sundari for providing houses to homeless workers of tea gardens. “This is a ₹500 crore project. In phase I workers of seven tea gardens in Jalpaiguri and Alipurduar will get 3,694 homes,” Ms. Banerjee said at the meeting.

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At Mamata’s Kitchen in Bengal, migrants to get meals at Rs 5

a group of people wearing costumes

The Trinamool Congress has started ‘Didir Rannaghar [Mamata’s Kitchen]’ in West Bengal to provide meals to the migrant workers for Rs 5 only. The initiative, ‘Mamata’s Kitchen’, has been started with an aim to support lakhs of migrants workers in the state who lost their jobs and suffered a financial setback due to the coronavirus-induced lockdown.

At ‘Didir Rannaghar’ or ‘Mamata’s Kitchen’, meals would be provided to the migrant workers at Rs 5 between 11 am and 3 pm. The meals at ‘Didir Rannaghar [Mamata’s Kitchen]’ would be vegetarian, mostly, and would include rice, dal (pulses), mix vegetable, ‘Khichdi’ (cooked rice and lentils), and papad.

While Mamata’s Kitchen has already started functioning in Howrah, Belgachhia (in Kolkata) and Barrackpore in North 24 Parganas, the Trinamool Congress plans to provide meals at Rs 5 to migrant workers across the state during the festive season.

TMC MLA Tapas Roy told News18 that ‘Didir Rannaghar’ aims to benefit the underprivileged sections/unorganised sectors who have suffered immensely due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Tapas Roy also said that the Trinamool Congress is also planning to donate clothes to the poor during the festive season.

Meanwhile, West Bengal’s coronavirus tally surged past 2,50,000 on Monday with 3,155 fresh cases, while 56 more fatalities pushed the death toll to 4,837, a bulletin released by the state health department said.

The state has registered a total of 2,50,580 coronavirus cases so far. Since Sunday, 2,923 people have recovered from the disease, taking the discharge rate to 87.73 per cent.

(With PTI inputs)

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