Tea labourers must get notified minimum wages: Sitharaman

Sitharaman also dismissed the practice of negotiations between some labour unions and the industry.

Written by Samudra Gupta Kashyap | Guwahati | Published: October 13, 2014 7:56 pm

Labourers working in tea plantations in Assam and West Bengal should get the notified minimum wages and not according to other calculations as is prevalent now, Nirmala Sitharaman, union minister of state (independent charge) for commerce and industry asserted here today.

Presiding a marathon discussion with various levels of stake-holders of the country’s tea industry, Sitharaman also dismissed the practice of negotiations between some labour unions and the industry, and insisted that labourers should get what has been notified as minimum wages.

She also described as unwarranted the practice of adding non-cash benefits extended to the labourers in the Assam gardens to the cash component of minimum wages, and asked the state government to ensure that the plantation workers were paid the actual notified wages. “The tea garden owners have various issues which the government is ready to address, but there will be no compromise on minimum wages to tea workers,” she said.

Representatives of some labour unions pointed out to her during the day-long consultation that tea plantation labourers in Assam were getting only Rs 94 per day, whereas their counterparts in southern states like Kerala get Rs 254. Even the state government rate of unskilled daily wage workers stood at Rs 169, she was told.

Later, speaking to the media, Sitharaman said that the Centre would ensure that tea plantation workers in Assam got full benefit of major central flagships programmes of healthcare, sanitation, safe drinking water and nutrition as other rural people do. The 800-odd big tea estates in Assam employ about five lakh permanent workers, while about six lakh more are engaged as temporary and seasonal workers.

Assam industry and commerce minister Pradyut Bordoloi, who read out chief minister Tarun Gogoi in his absence, pointed out that though tea workers and their families constitute a sizable chunk of the state’s population, their socio-economic conditions were comparatively worse than the average population due to a variety of reasons.

“Their Human Development Index particularly in the fields of education, healthcare, maternal mortality, infant mortality, malnutrition etc. is on the much lower side. The housing, sanitation, water supply in the residential areas of tea estates for permanent workers needs much improvement. The living conditions of temporary workers are poorer. They are deprived from housing. They get foodgrains only for temporary period and their dependents do not get rations like temporary workers,” Bordoloi said.

Earlier, representatives of small tea growers pleaded before the central minister to intervene in the matter of better price for green leaf. “The major companies that have factories simply dictate terms and force the homestead tea growers to accept whatever price they fix,” the delegation told the minister.

Of the 81,058 registered tea growers in Assam, as many as 80,293 are small tea growers having individual plantation area up to 10.12 hectares, and their production has progressively increased from 26.25% in 2008 to around 30% in 2013.

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  1. A
    Arun
    Oct 13, 2014 at 3:23 pm
    Tata is one of the largest buyer from those tea gardens. Talk about company ethics and your morals Ratan Tata?
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    1. K
      krishnan
      Oct 13, 2014 at 5:49 pm
      Honest minister in Modis Cabinet. First one to think of Aam admi.
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      1. K
        krishnan
        Oct 13, 2014 at 4:57 pm
        it s a gr8 stepfact it s shame on part our Admin to pay so low for t est workers.Betreyal.First time a HONEST Minister has spoken honestly.
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        1. kris kumar
          Oct 13, 2014 at 8:10 pm
          A fare wage is a must for tea workers. As there are large number of small tea growers the government must help them to get the best price or government should buy direct from growers and then auction in the open market. The way must be found that small tea growers get a good deal so that they can pay reasonable wage to its workers.
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          1. N
            Neh Indwar
            Nov 13, 2014 at 9:47 am
            The spineless govt of Mamata in West Bengal wishes to pay only Rs. 113/- to the tea workers. Thousands of case are there of willfully not paying gratuity and provident fund, but govt of west bengal does not want to take any action against tea companies, as it is collecting money from them for next embly election.
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