THAKURBARI, March 10 - Laying stress on adequate wage to the labourers, the Chairman of ITA, Azam Monem today said that the application of full cover of the Government�s welfare schemes in tea estates could not be institutionalised due to concurrent existence of the Plantations Labour Act (PLA), which overlaps these schemes.
The ITA Chairman who was delivering his speech as special guest at the 128th annual general meeting of ABITA held at the Planters� Club here today, also stated that amendment of the Plantations Labour Act which is on the anvil, envisages wider application of the Government�s social welfare schemes on housing, health, education, and drinking water in tea gardens.
�We have represented to the Union Ministry of Labour that the cost of maintenance of such facilities created from these schemes should not be vested on the management, particularly where such facilities already exist under the PLA, as this would further add to costs.�
He said there was pressure to give priority to include in-kind benefits provided to tea plantation workers within the ambit of the definition of wages.
�It is imperative to ensure that a sustainable wage structure exists in the tea industry for it�s long-term viability.� He mentioned that the State Government which is pro-active will take cognizance regarding revision in wages as otherwise the industry would be forced to a state of shutdown, thereby triggering massive unemployment.
Moreover, mentioning the critical environmental challenges posed by the tea industry, he further stated that the adversities infused by climate change has increased the industry�s dependence on irrigation and investments on creation of irrigation infrastructure has gone up substantially.
�We need solutions that are affordable and durable. River dredging which is being explored in Assam is a step in the right direction as large land masses on the river banks, including tea plantations continue to get eroded year after year. The applicability of the Ministry of Agriculture�s flagship scheme, namely Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana needs to be extended to tea plantations to counter climate change threats and mitigate the huge operation cost on irrigation infrastructure.�
Attending the AGM as chief guest, Jishnu Baruah, Principal Secretary (Power and Chairman of APDCL) stated that adequate service to the people through proper distribution of power among the consumers is the prime duty of the power sector. � Assam Power Distribution Company Limited (APDCL) is mandated to supply electricity to all consumers of the State for which the company has made all-out endeavour to improve the power supply position and is now supplying power to the extent of 95% to 100% during off-peak hours and to 90 to 95 % during peak (evening) hours.� He added that APDCL has been able to collect satisfactory revenue.
In his welcome address, the Chairman of ABITA, AH Choudhry stated that the tea industry in 2017 recorded a production of 1,279 million kgs. Assam last year was behind by about 16 million kgs. as compared to the previous year in regard to price of tea. There has still been no appreciative increase in the prices during the current year. Price realisation has remained more or less stagnant.
Another matter of concern is the increasing cost of production. Input costs have significantly gone up in terms of electricity, fuel, plant protection chemicals, irrigation etc.
�Wage and employment cost constitute 60% of production and is going up. The wage agreements have since expired and enhancement is on the anvil. We expect that the wage quantum that would be fixed would be such that the industry would be capable to sustain,� he said, adding �the Assam branch of Indian Tea Association that came into being as the Assam Valley Tea Association in 1889 since its inception, has been extending yeoman service by way of which it has been able to earn the sustained confidence of its members, respect from the unions and being held in esteem by the Government�.
The ABITA has grown by leaps and bounds over the years and today it is the largest association in the Brahmaputra Valley having a membership of 277 tea estates at present. The tea industry in Assam is now over 180 years old and provides employment directly and indirectly to a large segment of people who are solely dependent on this industry for their livelihood.
Sharing his views, Bhaskar Jyoti Baruah of Tirual TE stressed on adequate remuneration to the tea workers, including the labourers as they are the backbone of the industry. Without decent payment, development of the tea industry is only a dream. The event, held under the chairmanship of ABITA Chairman AH Choudhry, was attended by a host of delegates from different tea gardens of the State. The tea estates showing good performance in the field of family welfare were awarded at the AGM.
However, at the sideline of the programme, the ITA, chairman, Azam Monem, r
Replying to a query raised by this Correspondent regarding orthodox tea produced by the local tea growers, he said �the local tea growers deserve to be complimented for commercialising their produce under the �India Tea� logo. Necessary support to the local tea growers will definitely be given as the orthodox tea they make has been able to gain worldwide popularity and capture markets,� he said.