DIBRUGARH, July 19 � The Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha (ACMS) has held Minister Prithibi Majhi�s Labour Department in particular and the Assam Government in general responsible for many of the problems in tea gardens and the rising grievances among tea garden workers.
At a news conference here on Friday, ACMS general secretary Dileshwar Tanti alleged that the State Government, specifically the Labour Department, was not at all serious about implementing the Plantation Labour Act and other relevant laws in the tea estates.
�We bargain with the planters for the payment of proper wages and bonus to the workers. But the Labour Department has the responsibility to ensure that the tea managements take up social welfare measures as guaranteed to workers under the Plantation Labour Act like proper housing, timely provision of rations, medical service, education facilities, sanitation, provident fund, etc. We have been placing all the grievances of tea garden workers before the planters� bodies from time to time, but it is up to the State Government to see if the workers are getting what they deserve. The Labour Department has to act tough to compel the tea estates to follow the Plantation Labour Act and other applicable laws,� Tanti, a former Labour Minister, said.
Asked why the ACMS was not mounting pressure on the department concerned to act tough, Tanti maintained that as a trade union body, it has been doing everything possible; but the Labour Department was indifferent to the matter. �There are a number of committees to resolve the problems of tea plantation workers like the Standing Labour Committee, Housing Advisory Committee, Education Advisory Committee, Minimum Wage Advisory Committee, Medical Advisory Committee, etc., but the Labour Department has not called a single sitting of these committees. We would have definitely raised our concerns if the sittings were called since the ACMS is also a member of these advisory committees,� the ACMS general secretary said, adding that he has never heard of any sitting being held during the rule of the AGP and also during the tenures of Rameshwar Dhanowar and Prithibi Majhi as Labour Ministers in the Congress-led regime in the State.
ACMS leaders further alleged that due to the indifferent attitude of the State Government, the problems in the tea plantations were multiplying. Tea estates, particularly the ATCL, owe about Rs 100 crore to workers since tea managements have failed to deposit the provident funds of the workers. Several tea estates are on the verge of being closed due to the alleged apathy of the State Government.
Moreover, the issues of wages, holiday on Sunday, medical facilities, education, electrification, housing, house repairs, festival holiday, potable drinking water and rations for workers remain to be resolved, Tanti said.
On the ACMS�s role during the recent Lok Sabha elections, he said that unlike the previous years, it did not receive any directive from the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), the trade union wing of the Indian National Congress, to which the ACMS is affiliated or from the Assam Pradesh Congress Committee to extend support to or campaign for the party candidates. �Since no request came from the party and the top trade union body, we did not send any circular to our branches to ask them to support Congress candidates. Therefore, most of our workers were idle during the recent electioneering. Some of our workers even campaigned for Rameshwar Teli and Kamakhya Prasad Tasa of the BJP. Only a few ACMS workers whom former Union minister and INC candidate Paban Singh Ghatowar personally requested for support worked for him,� Tanti said. He rued that the Congress party and the State Government were not taking the ACMS into confidence despite it being loyal to the party over the years.