BARPETA, Oct 20 - The Baksa district committee of All Adivasi Students� Association of Assam (AASAA) alleged gross violation of Minimum Wages Act, 1948 and Plantations Labour Act, 1951 by the managements of the tea gardens and requested the President of India to intervene in this matter.
In a memorandum to the President, the student body informed that there are almost 80 lakhs of Adivasis in Assam, out of which around 30 lakhs work in tea plantations. Assam produces 55 per cent of total tea production in India with a revenue income of Rs 20,000 crore annually. But it is a matter of regret that the people behind this huge income are always neglected both by the management of the tea gardens and the government.
The memorandum signed by Rupsing Gorh and Mansuk Sankharika alleged that Adivasis in Assam are denied basic facilities of living like a human being. They are not paid adequate wages, not provided adequate healthcare, sanitation and education. As a result, the conditions of people belonging to this tribe are getting bad to worse with every passing day.
The leaders alleged that the labourers working in plantations are paid Rs 115 as daily wage which can never meet the day-to-day demand of the family. Even in Kerala, where the quality and price of tea is lower than Assam, a labourer is paid Rs 254 as the daily wage. They appraised the President about a survey wherein it was stated that a family requires minimum of Rs 330 to meet the daily needs. The student organisation demanded the minimum wages for the plantation labourers so that they can atleast live a hand-to-mouth existence. Besides, they demanded implementation of the Food Security Act in tea gardens and supply of ration against each family member and not only to the person who works. It was alleged that the management of the tea gardens had withdrawn ration against all the members of a family.
The Plantation Labour Act 1951 provides for basic working and living conditions such as minimum housing facilities, drinking water, sanitation and healthcare in the gardens.
The student leaders attributed the highest maternal deaths in Assam to the unhealthy conditions in the tea gardens and demanded immediate improvement of these conditions. They demanded dwelling houses under the Indira Awas Yojana and safe drinking water, electricity and sanitation in the gardens.
The leaders rued the pathetic condition of education in the gardens and stated that there are only one or two teachers as against 150-200 students in a primary school in the garden. They stated that though there are a few government-run primary schools, they are also not different from those run by the garden management.
They demanded implementation of the Right to Education Act in full spirit in the plantation areas of the State. They also demanded establishment of high and higher secondary schools in the gardens.
The student body clearly stated that rampant violation of the Minimum Wages Act, 1948 and Plantations Labour Act, 1951 is the root of all evils in the tea gardens. It has led the Adivasis to slavery with no end of misery in sight. So they exhorted the Constitutional head to set up a commission to enquire into the ongoing mess in tea gardens and find ways and means to mitigate the woes so that they can live a dignified life.