GUWAHATI, May 1 - Tea garden workers are engaged in their field work strictly adhering to the safety protocols and social distancing norms prescribed by the Centre as well as the state governments of Assam and West Bengal, since the second week of April, when the tea estate (TE) operations resumed in the two states, said the Indian Tea Association (ITA).
The ITA said 50 per cent of the workforce has been deployed in its member TEs in Assam and 25 per cent of the workforce in its member TEs in West Bengal.
The very nature of work in the tea plantations itself ensures a distance of more than a metre between the workers when they are at work. The tea bushes are so aligned that while plucking, the relative positions and movement of the individual workers are sufficiently apart. This is meant for the convenience of plucking freely without any hindrance.
The workers are adhering to the safety and social distancing protocols spontaneously while working in the factories too. This is because of a greater institutionalised awareness drive, triggered by the COVID-19 outbreak, has made the workers aware of the need for these deterrent measures.
In several ITA member gardens, awareness programmes on social distancing and other safety measures such as handwashing or sanitising before and after work, sanitising of labour lines, etc., were initiated in February itself, when information about the then anticipated outbreak was disseminated.
Besides the working hours in the fields and factories, social distancing norms are put in place also at the time of payment of wages and distribution of concessional ration by the managements, with workers queuing in marked boxes or circles, spaced a metre or more apart.
In the fight against COVID-19, the tea industry is unified and in total sync with the rest of India. This spirit will prevail all along till the menace disappears, said the ITA.