India: Starvation deaths highlights tea workers' conditions at closed tea plantations in West Bengal

Reports indicate that nearly 100 workers have died due to starvation on closed tea plantations in West Bengal. Extreme poverty—fueled by cripplingly low wages and social isolation—has led to rampant malnutrition and anemia, often culminating in preventable deaths. Representatives of trade unions and activists under the Right to Food Campaign, who visited five abandoned and closed tea gardens in north Bengal have urged the State government to ensure minimum living wages to the tea garden workers. National Human Rights Commission has taken suo motu cognizance of media reports. Reportedly, the West Bengal Government has declined to acknowledge that these deaths occurred due to starvation. It has even declined to recognise that there was any malnutrition death.

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Article
22 January 2017

India: Trapped in dying tea gardens, workers lose children to traffickers

Author: Anuradha Nagaraj, Reuters [UK]

Tea gardens began shutting in 2002 and within five years, most had fully closed because management said they were unviable to run or struggled with big loans...Sabita, 16, is among the growing number of adolescent girls coerced to leave the tea-growing belt of West Bengal, whose pickers endure severe poverty, social isolation and health problems now their jobs have gone...In the 276 mostly closed tea gardens of West Bengal, young girls are dropping out of high school and “disappearing” with agents, according to a Child Welfare Board official...Hunger and death are deep set in the tea gardens. But for the nearly 200,000 families that still live here, despair is only growing. 

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Article
27 January 2016

India: Socialist Unity Centre of India burns effigy of Chief Minister on Tea Garden issue

Author: Prashant Acharya, Echo of India

Hundreds members and supporters of Socialist Unity Centre of India (SUCI) and the Tea Plantation Employees’ Union today protested and demonstrated in Siliguri against state government demanding immediate reopening of closed tea gardens of North Bengal. SUCI furious members burnt effigy of the chief minister Mamata Banerjee at HasmiChowk along hill cart road and shouted slogans against alleged atrocity of the state government for solving the problems of tea garden workers. The members also demanded the arrest of the tea garden owners who fled away throwing thousands of workers to die without food and medical aid.

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Article
3 December 2015

India: Fact finding mission reports abuse and violation of the human right to food and nutrition in tea gardens

Author: FIAN International

An International Fact Finding Mission (FFM) headed by the Global Network for the Right to Food and Nutrition (GNRtFN) visited tea plantations in Assam and West Bengal...objective of the Mission was to investigate the status of the human right to food and nutrition and related rights of tea plantation workers and the role played by the management of tea estates, companies and the government bodies...the team witnessed a hazardous combination of extremely low wages, precarious working conditions, inadequate housing and sanitation, structural violence against women, as well as lack of access to water, education and health care. With the right of tea workers to organize hampered, this unacceptable situation is driving thousands of families to the path of hunger, malnutrition and despair, increasingly reflected on child labor quotas and forced migration.

 

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Article
30 November 2015

India: Fact finding mission visits Bengal's tea gardens

Author: Ajanta Chakraborty, Times News Network

An International Fact Finding Mission is visiting and tea plantations in  Assam and West Bengal from November 27 to December 4....With 18 members from 9 countries, the purpose of the Mission is to understand the status of the human right to food and nutrition - and related rights - of tea plantation workers and to hold central and state governments accountable to their national and international human rights obligations. The mission team has visited tea gardens in Dooars, Darjeeling and Assam and has had discussions with both tea workers and their unions...This is the first Fact Finding Mission to be dispatched under the facilitation of the Global Network on the Right to Food and Nutrition (GNRtFN), a network composed of social movements and civil society organisations worldwide to support and give visibility to the struggles for these human rights...This Fact Finding Mission (FFM) is headed by the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Associations (IUF), who is a member of the GNRtFN. Other participating organisations are FIAN International, Pesticide Action Network, Right to Food Campaign (Nepal), Right to Food and Social Security Campaign (Bangladesh) and the Right To Food Campaign (India).

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Article
16 November 2015

For workers thrown out of Bengal's tea gardens, an umbrella is the only respite

Author: Padmaparna Ghosh, www.scroll.in

...Out-of-work tea estate workers. Thrown out without warning from the scores of tea gardens that smother this semi-mountainous landscape, thousands are struggling to make a living. According to report released in September, abandonment and closure of more than 15 Duncan Tea Estates in N Bengal has affected 75,000 workers and their families. All along the three rivers close to the Indo-Bhutan border, hundreds of umbrellas and heads sat breaking stones all day for the construction industry.

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Article
13 October 2014

India: Labour minister commit to revive sick tea gardens

Author: Indian Express

The Centre is committed to revive sick tea gardens in the country and a joint effort will be made by it along with state governments, Labour Minister…said…We will do all possible to solve the problems of tea garden labourers in consultation with state governments. We will jointly formulate a strategy to revive sick tea gardens in the country,” he said during Question Hour… The tea industry provides direct employment to approximately 11.22 lakh workers. In addition, about 12.25 lakh workers are engaged in coffee, rubber and cardamom plantations,” he said.

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Article
13 October 2014

India: Minister of State for Commerce & Industry assures minimum wages for the tea workers in Assam & West Bengal

Author: Samudra Gupta Kashyap, Indian Express

Labourers working in tea plantations in Assam and West Bengal should get the notified minimum wages and not according to other calculations as is prevalent now, Nirmala Sitharaman, union minister of state (independent charge) for commerce and industry asserted...Presiding a marathon discussion with various levels of stake-holders of the country’s tea industry, Sitharaman also dismissed the practice of negotiations between some labour unions and the industry, and insisted that labourers should get what has been notified as minimum wages…The 800-odd big tea estates in Assam employ about five lakh permanent workers, while about six lakh more are engaged as temporary and seasonal workers.

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Article
13 October 2014

India: United Tea Workers Front submitted its demands to the Labour Minister

Author: Khet Majoor Samiti, http://khetmajoorsamity.blogspot.in

A delegation from the United Tea Workers Front (UTWF) was told by Shri Moloy Ghatak, Minister-in-charge, Labour Department, Government of West Bengal that minimum wages in the tea industry would be implemented in another six months. In response to the demands made by the delegation on the issue of closed gardens and their proper reopening, and the state government’s initiative and actions on the issue, it was reported that the chief minister of the state has already written to the government of India about a possible takeover of closed tea gardens and their reopening.

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Article
19 August 2014

Ensure minimum wages to tea garden workers, govt. told

Author: Hindu

Representatives of trade unions and activists under the Right to Food Campaign, who visited five abandoned and closed tea gardens in north Bengal last month, have urged the State government to ensure minimum living wages to the tea garden workers...The State government needs to ensure payment of a minimum living wages in the tea sector to avoid starvation deaths and deaths due to poverty in the long run. This is possible if instead of the present wages of Rs. 95/90, the State government plays a positive role in the present wage negotiations or if it declares a living wages as the minimum wages in the tea sector,” a report submitted to the State’s Chief Secretary said.

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Article
19 August 2014

Hunger deaths stalk Bengal tea country

Author: Pinak Priya Bhattacharya & Jayanta Gupta, Times News Network

The picturesque tea estates of North Bengal hide a gruesome truth - malnutrition deaths. Nearly 100 people have reportedly died in five closed tea gardens since January, with 10 deaths reported this month. Over the past decade and a half, more than 1,000 garden workers and their family members have died in the sprawling but decaying tea estates of Dooars, say NGO workers....With no money to even buy food, workers have been known to resort to extremes, like selling children...the doctor and pharmacist at Raipur tea estate told...over 50% labourers are almost starving. "Most of the labourers who turn up at our health centre are malnourished. We provide them with a few medicines, but they don't have money to buy the other medicines from the market.

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