DOOMDOOMA, April 23 - Casual tea garden labourers and those who earn on a daily basis in the tea belt of Doomdooma circle have been facing severe economic hardship due to the ongoing lockdown in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Though the tea gardens here resumed operation from April 12, they are yet to engage their full labour force due to government guidelines of running the gardens with 50 per cent workers. Following this government instruction, the tea companies are now engaging only their permanent work force, which has pushed the casual workers to extreme economic hardship.
During the plucking season, tea gardens need a huge labour force and hence the tea companies engage a good number of labourers on casual basis. During the off season, these labourers engage themselves in various other jobs on daily wage basis. Most of them work in construction sites.
Moreover, another section of people belonging to the tea garden community here do not work in the tea industry and are engaged in various other manual jobs on daily wage basis.
Significantly, a majority of the casual tea labourers and daily wage earners are excluded from the public distribution system.
Though a section of tea labourers, both permanent and casual, having Prime Minister�s Jan Dhan Yojana account, have received Rs 500 each, but another section do not have this account.
Moreover, when prices of essential commodities have been rising by leaps and bounds, Rs 500 is nothing for a family of 6-7 people. On the other hand, though the government has announced that those who do not have ration card or bank account will be given Rs 1,000 each, but many such people of Doomdooma circle informed this Correspondent that they did not get that amount. Hence, they are now at sea.
�I used to work as a jugali (helper) with a mason on daily wage basis. But since the last 25 days, I have no work. I have got 25 kg rice from the government ration card. But only rice is not enough for survival. The government should think about people like us,� said Bijoy Bhumij, a daily wage earner of Beesakopie Trolley Line.
�I used to work as a domestic help in a household at Doomdooma town and thus I use to manage my three-member family. But when the lockdown was imposed, I could not go to work. I am therefore facing a severe crisis in maintaining my family. The government should consider our plight,� Geeta Kour of Doomdooma said.
Talking to this correspondent, Doomdooma MLA Durga Bhumij said, �Though the government has announced Rs 1,000 to each family which does not have any ration card, people in Doomdooma LAC area are not getting this benefit. Only a few people have got this amount.�
Bhumij therefore urged the administration to undertake a proper survey in Doomdooma LAC area to find out the poor families without ration card.
In the meantime, severe economic hardship has led to various anti-social activities like theft in certain areas of Doomdooma circle.
In a desperate bid to overcome the crisis situation, a few people have even started digging out the bricks used to construct rural roads and sell them for some amount of money. On Sunday night, many bricks along a rural lane of Daimukhia Gaon under Doomdooma PS were dug out and stolen.
�If the government does not take immediate steps to help the poor people, the social environment in these areas would worsen even further,� speculated a local youth of Daimukhia Gaon.