Presentation on theme: "The Tea Crisis in India Situation of Tea Plantation Labourers in North Bengal."— Presentation transcript:
The Tea Crisis in India Situation of Tea Plantation Labourers in North Bengal
Historical Background Tea was one of the most profitable ventures in the Indian business scenario from the Colonial era. British in India owned large tea estates especially in areas of North Bengal. In keeping with their exploitative attitude, the British employed people to work in these estates at very low wages and in harsh conditions. They brought in Nepalese and tribals from the Chota Nagpur plateau region as cheap labour. Thus from its outset the tea plantations had very poor facilities available for its labour and used exploitative means to maximize profits.
Present Scenario Countries such as Sri Lanka, Malaysia etc as members of the SAARC, have tax redemption and thus export tea to India at very low prices. As a result the Indian market is flooded with low priced imported tea while the Indian producers had to pay taxes. But the companies did not want to lose their profit margin and hence they started downsizing labour severely. Trees in the tea gardens of N. Bengal are very old and companies are not ready to spend money to change the bushes or at least take care of the existing ones.
Continued…. The owners are claiming that the quality and quantity of the tea has deteriorated and are blaming the labourers. The major export market for the Indian tea growers were Afghanistan and Iraq. But with the ongoing crisis in these areas India has lost this market to the global forces. Out of 300 registered Tea Estates in North Bengal, 22 have been shut down and some of the owners have left the tea gardens even without informing the workers. The owners have swindled the provident funds of the workers and have paid them none of their dues.
Continued…. 20,847 permanent workers of these tea gardens are jobless. 94,347 people have been indirectly affected by such closures. An estimated 450 people have died due to disease, unavailability of clean drinking water, starvation and malnutrition. Many more tea estate owners are planning to shut down their tea estates and leave many more workers helpless.
The Plight Governance Issues – The local panchayat is not fulfilling its responsibilities. As per the Plantation Act, estate owners are responsible to provide basic social amenities. But in order to maximise their profits further they refuse to spend on social costs. This ambiguous governance structure gives each of them the excuse to blame the other leaving the labourers in pathetic conditions. Despite their abject poverty, government is not issuing BPL cards. Those who have cards do not receive their entitlements.
Continued… Workers are often not paid or are given very low wages that are much below the minimum wage cut by the owners and government bodies. This is a gross violation of their rights. It is to be noted that the last time the Wage Commission revised the minimum wages was in 1956!! Infrastructural Issues – Very poor infrastructure for health & education in the area. Education is not in local language and so they do not understand what is being taught. Communication problems to schools & hospitals as there are no proper roads or means of travel.
Continued… Rise in Drop out rates in the Schools. Severe malnutrition and starvation deaths. Major water problems No means and methods of entertainment increasing frustration. Increase in alcoholism due to the resulting frustration. Ethnic issues – Ethnic issues among tribals & Nepalis due to inherent feelings of jealousy and animosity. Caste discrimination within tribals leading to further marginalisation.
Continued… Gender Issues – With women becoming bread earners, they have also started suffering due to domestic violence. Yet women have no say, no leadership in the whole process Prostitution & sexual abuse by military forces has increased tremendously. Women have been seriously affected also by the machines being used in the gardens. These machines have loosened the uterus of the women using them and have affected their health severely.
Continued… Prices increasing but plantations being closed down. MNCs such as Unilever have bargained to increase the FDI in tea in India Today Unilever controls 40% of the domestic tea market Profit maximization leading to increase in prices, wage cuts and downsizing labour. Estate owners cutting costs further by not providing health and education to workers. Gross Human Rights– Right to Food, Right to Education, Health Care & Sanitation, Right to Work etc.
Intervention Organisations such as Jagron and Swadhikar are working on the issue at various levels. Swadhikar works on the protection of rights of the workers in the area with special focus on the rights of children in the area. They are trying to bring changes in production relations through education, training, self help, advocacy. Jagron works to empower the communities around basic human rights issues and to help the women to get a better position in society.
Continued… These organisations are working to help the people raise their voice against the violation of their rights and against the injustice that they are facing. CRY works with these organisations by identifying legal issues and helping design capacity building workshops, strengthen staff capacity in issues of human rights, design and build relevant material and the like.
Our Contribution As TISS, we can contribute by – Working with these organisations as interns or volunteers Through advocacy and approaching relevant people to support the movement. By creating awareness through discussion and debates Creating mass awareness by writing to the media and other channels of public view. Helping the organisations to design campaigns and thus achieve the human rights of all those violated.