GUWAHATI, Jan 20 - State Labour and Tea Tribes Welfare Minister Pallab Lochan Das today warned the tea garden managements against discontinuing the rations supply to the workers and asserted that the government will be forced to step in if the bilateral wage agreement signed between the Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha (ACMS) and Consultative Committee of Plantation Associations (CCPA) is violated.
The minister�s statement came a day after tea garden workers under the banner of ACMS staged state-wide demonstrations against the move by the garden managements to monetise the fringe benefits the workers had been getting.
�According to the bilateral agreement signed between the ACMS and CCPA, the managements are bound to provide the subsidised rations to the workers. They can�t discontinue it. In case they stop it and we receive any complaint, we will be forced to take action against the garden,� Das said, adding that letters have been written to the management associations warning them against any such move.
However, the CCPA insisted that the State Government is not a party to the bilateral wage agreement and as such it cannot interfere in the matter. �Rations is not a statutory provision under the Plantations Labour Act and so the gardens are not bound to provide it. However, if either of the parties in the bilateral agreement has any grievance, it can approach the court. The government cannot interfere,� CCPA sources told The Assam Tribune.
According to the present wage agreement signed between the ACMS and CCPA, the workers are entitled for a cash wage of Rs 115. The workers enjoy other fringe benefits, which include 32.5 kg rations per family, dry tea and firewood compensation and statutory benefits like earned leave and festival holidays.
Earlier, the gardens used to procure the rations from the FCI, but after the National Food Security Act (NFSA) came into force, the government stopped the provision, forcing the gardens to buy the rations from the market.
The NFSA scheme is yet to touch many parts of the State. Sources said that the CCPA had earlier proposed that the NFSA rations should be routed through the garden managements, but the government was averse to the idea.
At a meeting earlier this month, the CCPA, representing five management associations, adopted a resolution to partly monetise the fringe benefits.
Meanwhile, Pallab Lochan Das also questioned why the tea workers targeted the State Government when the lapses were on the part of the managements.
�It is the ACMS which should be blamed for the pathetic plight of the tea workers today. Who kept the workers poor? Who kept them illiterate? Why there is no school, college in the gardens?� the minister said, describing protests as politically motivated.