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6 Nov 2016

India: CAO Investigation report low wages & poor working conditions at Tata-World Bank Plantations

In 2009, through a $7.8 million investment by the World Bank, Tata created Amalgamated Plantations Private Limited (or APPL), the second largest tea producer in Assam. The APPL project affects 155,000 people - including 30,000 tea plantation workers and their families.

In response to reports from workers on violations of wage and labour laws, restrictions on freedom of association, poor hygiene and health, hazardous conditions for pesticide sprayers, and concerns with the share program, three local NGOs, PAJHRA, PAD and DBSS filed a complaint in February 2013 with the World Bank’s Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO) - the independent grievance office which holds the World Bank Group accountable to its own policies.

In November 2016, the CAO’s final report was released, confirming many of the workers’ complaints. The report found that despite a share program meant to increase worker profits, workers suffer from low wages, poor working conditions, inadequate living quarters and struggle to access basic healthcare. Additionally, the report found that workers handled hazardous pesticides without proper training or equipment, conditions which even lead to the sudden death of at least one employee.

In August 2017, Accountability Counsel, PAJHRA, and People’s Action for Development launched Project AccountabiliTEA, documenting the poor conditions the workers continued to face and criticised Project Unnati, an action plan created by the World Bank in response to the CAO investigation that the groups claimed was 'limited' and addressed a 'smaller subset of issues'.

In January 2019, the CAO published a monitoring report stating that the IFC had failed to keep promises they had made in response to the CAO’s investigation report.