GUWAHATI, Oct 26 - The Opposition Congress party today accused the BJP-led Government of undertaking political and social discrimination against the tea community.
Speaking before the media here, the Chairman of the Tea and Ex-Tea Mazdoor Congress Department of the Assam Pradesh Congress Committee (APCC) and MLA from Mariani constituency Rupjyoti Kurmi said that the Sarbananda Sonowal-led Government has discontinued many social welfare schemes for the tea community announced by the previous Congress regimes and has instead made some new announcements purely for the sake of political and electoral gains.
�The BJP-led Government has not done anything for the tea and ex-tea community. The few schemes announced by this Government are only intended for electoral gains,� Kurmi said.
He said that this is the first Government in Assam where not even a single representative from the tea community has been given a Cabinet berth in the State ministry.
�In all previous governments led by the Congress party in Assam, there used to be at least one or two Cabinet-ranked ministers from the tea community. However, in the present Government there is only a single Minister of State, who has been inducted as a sort extending a lollypop for the community,� Kurmi said.
He added that even at the Centre there used to be at least one minister from the tea community in the Union ministry during the regimes run by the Congress party.
�The BJP won the support of the tea community during the 2014 Lok Sabha and the 2016 Assembly elections by giving various assurances. The BJP has two Lok Sabha MPs from the community. The ruling party MPs of Jorhat and Dibrugarh parliamentary constituencies are from the BJP.
But leave aside the matter of inducting either of them in the Union ministry, none of the two have even been made chairperson of any committee of the Lok Sabha. This clearly proves the discriminatory attitude of the BJP with regard to the tea and ex-tea community,� said the senior Congress MLA.
He also lambasted the BJP and the State Government on the issue of the aborted resignation of ruling party MLA from Duliajan constituency Terosh Gowalla.
�It has always been the norm to make the Duliajan MLA the Chairperson of the Assam Gas Company Ltd (AGCL). However, Gowalla was deprived of that position despite him being the local MLA. This amply demonstrates how the BJP treats representatives of the tea community,� Kurmi said.
He alleged that the BJP Government has discontinued many social welfare schemes meant to benefit the tea community, and which had been implemented by the previous Congress regimes.
�They are now talking of giving mobile phones to �Line Sardars� of tea gardens. This is an insult to the community at a time when mobile phones are available with literally every person.
The BJP Government in Assam did nothing for the tea community during the past two-and-a-half years, but now that Panchayat and Lok Sabha polls are coming, the Government has announced new schemes just for the sake of votes,� said Kurmi.
He said the State Government has done nothing to recruit new teachers in schools located in tea garden areas despite the low �teacher: student� ratio in such schools and added that girls from the community were deprived during the past two years from schemes to train for Auxiliary Nursing and Midwifery (ANM) and General Nursing and Midwifery (GNM) courses.
He added that 70 per cent of the over 80 lakh members of the community reside in villages and nothing has been done for them. �The Government has only provided Rs 2,500 in the bank accounts of the permanent workers of the tea gardens who constitute only 30 per cent of the total tea and ex-tea community people in Assam.
On the other hand, our Government had provided power-tillers, bicycles, sewing machines and hostels for boys and girls from the community. The present Government has stopped all those schemes.
Earlier, every year 12,000 to 15,000 girls from the community used to get bicycles from the State Government. But now, only around 100 girls who clear their Higher Secondary exams will get scooters,� Kurmi said. He also accused the present dispensation of failing to take steps to provide land pattas to the tea community and for extending the Scheduled Tribe (ST) status to the tea community and five other communities of Assam.
�The tea community people were misled by the BJP during the last two elections. However, the BJP has now been exposed in front of the community and will face serious reverses in the coming Lok Sabha polls,� Kurmi speculated.