GUWAHATI, Oct 8 � Arguing that the present daily wage given to the tea garden labourers of Assam was grossly inadequate and also violated the Minimum Labour Wage Act-1948, the All Adivasi Students' Association of Assam (AASAA) today sought the Chief Minister's intervention in enhancing the wage to Rs 330.
AASAA members today staged a demonstration at Dighalipukhuri demanding that daily wage of tea workers be hiked to Rs 330 from Rs 94.
�The wage agreement by Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha (ACMS) and Consultative Committee of Planters Association (CCPA) at Rs 94 violates the Minimum Labour Wage Act-1948, which stipulates a minimum wage of Rs 169. We are demanding a just wage based on minimum wage standards set by the tripartite committee of the 15th Indian Labour Conference and the Supreme Court of India held in 1957,� the memorandum said.
The AASAA also pointed out that as established in the Plantation Labour Act-1951 and the Minimum Wage Act-1948, costs associated with housing, medical, electricity cannot be included as part of minimum wage.
�Despite producing one-sixth of world's total tea, tea workers in Assam get a meagre Rs 94 due to the colonial-age wage policies whereas a 125-gram packet of Assam loose tea is priced at Rs 777. Tea companies are expecting a turnover of Rs 33,000 crore by 2015 but the labourers continue to languish in poverty,� it said.
The AASAA said that despite the tea industry being a profitable industry, it often claims that it does not have the financial capacity to raise wages. �However, it is only on the issue of wages that this logic of not having the financial capacity is applied, and not when the issues of rising fuel, transportation and electricity costs are discussed,� it added.
Pointing out that states like Kerala and Tamil Nadu have been paying wages at high rates, the AASAA said that there was no reason why the tea gardens in Assam could not pay wage at the desired rate.
�Increase in wage is economically sustainable, as demonstrated by states like Kerala and Tamil Nadu. In Kerala the daily wage is Rs 254,� it said.
Warning that it would launch an intense mass movement unless the wages were revised at the earliest, the AASAA urged the Chief Minister to use his good office to implement the laws of the country and ensure justice to the tea garden workers.