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

Tea_gardens_Assam_Photo_Courtesy_NazdeekIn 2009, through a $7.8 million investment by the 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 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. After a three year investigation, the CAO’s final report is released, confirming many of the workers’ complaints. The report finds 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 finds that workers handled hazardous pesticides without proper training or equipment, conditions which even lead to the sudden death of at least one employee. 



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10 February 2019

India: Pregnant women are risking their lives to bring people tea

Author: Swati Gupta, CNN

"Pregnant women are risking their lives to bring people tea", 6 February 2019

Rama is...six months pregnant and increasingly worried about the health of her unborn child. [She] earns her living by picking tea leaves in India's north-eastern Assam state...Numerous neighbors have suffered complications while giving birth, she said, sometimes with fatal consequences for both mother and child. This is fueled by poor working and living conditions, prolonged working hours and minimal access to health care during pregnancy, say experts...

For every 100,000 live births in Assam state, 237 women die -- making this the most dangerous place in the country to give birth, according to government figures for the 2014-16 period...

The world's biggest tea companies, Hindustan Unilever Limited and Tata Global Beverages, source the tea for their international brands like Yellow Label [by Lipton Tea (part of Unilever)] and Tetley from [health and safety] accredited plantations. But they have other, local brands that are not fully sourced from Rainforest Alliance-accredited plantations, like Hindustan Unilever's Taj Mahal Tea.

A Hindustan Unilever spokesperson told CNN that 40% of its tea for the domestic Indian market comes from non-certified plantations...[Their] "...endeavour is to move [them] to sustainably sourced plantations by 2020."...[A] spokesperson for Tata Global Beverages told CNN, "In India, we are in the process of getting to 100% accreditation. Given the complexities in the supply chain, this is not a straightforward journey."...

One owner of a plantation visited by CNN...said his estate provides ambulances, medical vans and transport to hospitals for women when needed...The Indian Tea Association...told CNN that "workers are eligible for primary health care as per the Plantation Labour Act," with free medication provided to a worker and their family and maternity care provided to cover anemia treatment, immunization, institutional deliveries and mother and child care projects. 

Human rights lawyer, Jayshree Satpute, who works with local plantation workers, disputes the claims that the medical facilities are available to most female workers...

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30 January 2019

India: World Bank and Tata Group must take urgent action to address long-standing health and safety concerns on their tea plantations

Author: Accountability Counsel, PAJHRA (India), PAD (India), and Nazdeek (India)

 28 January 2019

Today [28 January], the World Bank’s independent watchdog, the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO), released a monitoring report finding that the World Bank has failed to deliver on commitments to address serious health and safety concerns facing the 155,000 people that live and work on tea plantations it owns in India’s Northeast...

In 2009,...the International Finance Corporation (IFC), joined forces with the Tata Group [as majority shareholder] to create a worker-owned company called Amalgamated Plantations Private Limited (APPL). The rationale was to empower Adivasi (Indigenous) tea workers through better conditions and share ownership...In November 2016...the CAO [found] numerous [health and safety] violations... In response, the IFC and Tata committed in an “Action Plan” to working closely with APPL to improve housing, water supply, toilets, hospitals, and pesticide use, on an urgent basis, in close consultation with workers.

[In today's report] [t]he CAO...found serious lapses in IFC’s supervision of APPL, including no evidence the IFC followed up with APPL in relation to a series of serious incidents of death and injury documented...It appears IFC and Tata, as the main shareholders, have provided insufficient assistance to APPL, since the CAO concludes the IFC has not adequately remedied workers’ hazardous living conditions, and not ensured workers at APPL have the necessary training and equipment to prevent harmful exposure to pesticides...

The CAO notes many of the issues raised in the CAO investigation are not peculiar to APPL but “150-year-old legacy issues plaguing the [tea] sector [in India], which require urgent action.”...

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25 April 2018

India: Deaths of Indian tea estates under the World Bank's watch

Author: Accountabilitea, India

"Nine Years of Neglect: Deaths of Indian Tea Estates under the World Bank's Watch", 27 April 2018

[T]wo local groups, Promotion and Advancement of Justice, Harmoney and Rights Adivasis (PAJHRA) and People's Action for Development (PAD), from Assam, India sent a letter to the World Bank Group’s independent complaint office, the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO), highlighting that the Bank’s neglect over the last nine years has contributed to deaths and injuries on tea plantations in the North-East of the country... [T]he World Bank invested in Amalgamated Plantations Private Limited (APPL)...owned by the Tata Group...[There are] stories of tea workers...who have died following work-related accidents, prolonged exposure to hazardous pesticides and lack of adequate medical care...

[The letter] documents seven...stories of death and injury by neglect in the last two years... [The World] Bank chose to disagree with many of the CAO’s findings [which was released in November 2016 showing failure to remedy low wages, restricted freedom of association, poor housing and sanitation and dangerous exposure to pesticides], and has done little to address the problems... 

Download the full document here

6 November 2016

AccountabiliTEA: Civil society urge to improve living & working conditions for Assam tea workers

Author: Nazdeek, Accountability Counsel, Promotion and Advancement of Justice, Harmony and Rights of Adivasis & People’s Action for Development

In Assam, the world’s largest tea growing region, there are nearly 1 million tea plantation workers and their families who depend on a meagre cash wage of 126 Rupees a day, that is less than 2 British pounds and lower than the minimum wage mandated by law. In addition, they live in appalling conditions with poor access to basic services like water, health and sanitation, which expose them to malnutrition, disease, and preventable deaths. These conditions are common across most tea plantations in Assam, and result in the region holding India’s highest maternal mortality rate and one of the highest rates of infant mortality. You can help to break this cycle! Bring digniTEA to those who bring you tea!

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6 November 2016

CAO Investigation of IFC Environmental and Social Performance in relation to Amalgamated Plantations Private Limited (APPL), India

Author: Compliance Advisor Ombudsman

This report provides the findings of CAO’s compliance investigation into IFC’s investment in Amalgamated Plantations Private Limited (APPL) (“the client”), the second largest producer and supplier of tea in India...CAO has made a number of noncompliance findings in relation to IFC’s handling of this investment. These cover IFC’s pre-investment E&S review as well as its supervision of the project. Both during the pre-investment phase and during supervision, CAO finds that IFC underestimated the E&S challenges associated with the project. Addressing these in accordance with IFC requirements will require the dedication of resources and relevant sectoral expertise beyond that which IFC has made available to the client to date. 

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6 November 2016

IFC Response

...The issues raised in the CAO's report echo the work of several independent institutions and external stakeholders, drawing attention to the crisis in the tea industry in India. Collectively, they highlight some of the 150-year-old legacy issues plaguing the sector, which require urgent action. 

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6 November 2016

Press release: Assam Tea Workers Demand Action from the World Bank and Tata

Author: PAJHRA, PAD, Accountability Counsel, Nazdeek & Columbia Law School

An investigation published today on Tata’s tea plantations in Assam vindicates the claims of Indian NGOs documenting the failure of the World Bank and Tata to uphold the fundamental rights of workers and their families. Over 155,000 people live and work on tea plantations run by Amalgamated Plantations Private Limited (APPL), the second largest tea producer in Assam. The project has the potential to significantly improve thousands of lives, however the Bank’s initial response to the investigation fails to make the most of this opportunity. 

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6 November 2016

World Bank Finds Evidence Of Labour Abuse On Assam Tea Plantations It Owns With The Tatas

Author: Rukmini S., Huffington Post

Workers' representatives allege that tea workers, the majority of whom are adivasi and descendants of colonial-era plantation labour, have been made to work in near-bonded conditions and without the protections of many labour laws. In 2009 a pregnant tea plantation worker at an APPL estate in West Bengal collapsed, allegedly after making a request for maternity leave at the health clinic, leading to protests and a lockout at the estate...As a concerned shareholder TGB continues to support the management of APPL towards improving the living and working conditions of workers. Under the proposed Draft Action Plan, which has been presented to the APPL board for review and approval, TGB will work alongwith IFC to engage a third party to undertake an annual audit and worker perception survey and other improvement measures," TGB said in a statement.

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