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The Tale of The Unsung Tea Workers

The Tale of The Unsung Tea Workers

Tea worker

The author Mousomi Chakravorty, a passionate lover of Assam tea, seeks to make a case for hundreds of unsung tea workers whose hard toil and labour ensure the taste and flavour of tea, yet the tradition of government apathy towards them continues

I am often asked in the UK, where are you from? I proudly say, from the North Eastern Part of India–ASSAM.

Before extending the conversation any further, I ask “Do you drink TEA? I am sure then you must have noticed the description outside your Tea box”.

Because, often, the box would invariably feature ‘Finest tea from Assam’ or ‘Best Assam Tea.’

I just want to let the readers know that I am very much aware that tea is grown in many other parts of the world, but in the UK, the most popular variety of tea is Black Tea from Assam and Kenya.

Since I am immensely proud of hailing from the tea growing state of India,  Assam,  so it’s my moral responsibility also to focus on those people, the tea workers, whose hard work and labour has made the country as one of the leading exporters of tea and at the same time,  given a global recognition to my beautiful state .

Oxfam International, formed in 1995 is a group of non-governmental organisations (NGO) prioritising its efforts to fight inequality and reduce poverty worldwide .

The name Oxfam is derived from the Oxford Committee for famine relief founded in the year 1942.

The report published by Oxfam International in 2019 has highlighted the plight of the tea workers of Assam. The study was done in collaboration with Tata Institute of Social Sciences and BASICS.

The report explained that tea workers are being deprived of the basic working and living facilities, healthcare, clean drinking water, access to decent education for their children and fair wages.

Women are employed in the lowest paid leaf plucking job roles and at the same time, they shoulder the responsibility of being domestic care providers.

tea worker woman carrying a load of tea leaves on her head

But the report was challenged and criticised by the Planters and Indian Tea Association (ITA).

This simply shows that there has been little change in the 150 years of exploitation of Tea workers which has regularly made headlines in the leading newspapers of India and UK.

The maternal mortality rate is very high in the tea growing community, which was reported by NAZDEEK, a legal empowerment organisation in 2018.

The prevalence of anaemia, maternal malnutrition driven by low socio-economic conditions and unavailability of nutritious food and poor sanitation and healthcare facilities has been quite high and contributing to the rate of mortality among pregnant women.

Women and children often fall into the trap of human traffickers on the promise of better living conditions, but find themselves enslaved in factories and households, human rights organisations report.

I think death of many tea workers due to drinking of spurious alcohol is equally worth the mention because they cannot afford licensed alcohol.

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I just made a cup of tea for myself while I was reading an article published in September 2020 that Indian tea plantation workers( nearly 4,00,000 of  them) went on a day-long strike in Assam, demanding a wage hike.

There was an assurance from the government authorities in 2018 that minimum wage would increase from Rs 167 to Rs 350 and working and living conditions would be improved.

But unfortunately, the workers allege that their demands have since been not met.

According to the secretary of Tea Workers’ Union, the COVID 19 pandemic has made them more vulnerable due to the rising cost of the essentials.

Can we all spare a thought for them as you read my write up? Let us hope and pray that the future holds only better for the tea workers of India.

Photographs by UB Photos

 

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