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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), Published on: 30 January 2019

 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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Related companies: Tata Group Tetley (part of Tata Tea)