The Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha (ACMS) has called for a series of protests for the fulfillment demands including a raise in the daily wages of workers in the state. The Consultative Committee of Plantation Associations (Tea-Coffee-Rubber-Cardamon) in their reply to the union said that amid the huge losses suffered by the industry, any "disruptive activity" would result in further detriment.
ACMS General Secretary Rupesh Gowalla said workers of all tea gardens in Assam will sit for a one hour 'dharna' in front of garden offices on September 16. This, he said, will take place in the latter half of the day to not hinder the daily work. "All the gardens shall then submit a memorandum to the garden managers on our set of demands. Almost 1,200 memorandums to the Chief Minister of Assam shall be submitted,” he said.
On September 22, twenty-two branches of the ACMS plan to demonstrate in front of the DC, SDO (civil) and circle offices in the State. The union plans to form a massive human chain as protest on September 29. "Tea workers from Dholla in the Tinsukia district of Assam to Nagaon shall form a human chain on the National Highways. On this day the state and the nation will see our cohesive strength,” he said.
The union's set of demands include the increment of workers' daily wages to Rs 351, an amount which was part of the election manifesto of the Bharatiya Janata Party.
"Unfortunately the salary that is being paid as of today is Rs 167, a hike of mere Rs 40 in the last four years," Gowalla said. Other demands include the fixation of minimum price for the green leaf in the small tea growers sector, and land patta for the worker and provision of land for the landless. Recruitment of people from the tea community in government services, and the formation of an Autonomous Council for Adivasi, Tea and ST communities, is also included in the list, said Gowalla.
The CCPA however, has asked ACMS to not hold the protests. In a letter, the body outlines the problems faced by the industry in the past few months. "The tea industry has suffered huge production loss in the month of March, April and May. Subsequently, in June and July heavy rainfall and floods have affected production. It is certain that the production in 2020 shall slump by as much as 15%," the letter adds.
“At this juncture when the industry is preparing itself to mobilize funds to meet its financial obligation and ensure smooth operations, any disruptive activity that causes a setback in production and productivity will be highly detrimental to the industry,” the letter argues.
Tea garden workers in the Brahmaputra Valley are being paid a daily wage of Rs 167 and workers in Barak Valley earn a wage of Rs 145 per day, presently. Assam’s tea tribe community, which constitutes around 20 per cent (70 lakh) of the state’s 3.5-crore population, has always played a decisive role in sealing electoral outcomes, both in the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections.