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AASAA demands fair wage for tea workers
Staff Correspondent

AASAA activists staging road blockade demanding increase in the daily wage of tea workers, at Sonari on Monday. – UB Photos
 DIBRUGARH, April 6 – The All Adivasi Students’ Association of Assam (AASAA) has resolved to reach the highest national and international bodies to plead for justice for thousands of tea garden workers in the State on the issues relating to the daily wage of the workers and other matters, even as they held huge road blockades across the State today.

The AASAA’s central leadership decided to approach the UN bodies concerned, including the International Labour Organization and the International Court of Justice, to take up the issues of tea garden labourers.

“We will lodge complaints against the tea companies for violation of the Minimum Wages Act with the National and International Grievance Redressal Mechanisms. We have also resolved to carry out a worldwide campaign through social networking sites like the Facebook and Twitter,

websites like www.change.org, www.avaaz.org and other networks, to expose the exploitation of tea garden workers by the State government and the tea companies,” Joseph Minj, general secretary, AASAA, told The Assam Tribune.

Thousands of AASAA members interrupted busy traffic on National Highway 37 near Khatkhati at Moran for about two hours. Road blockades were also staged on NH 37 near Panitola and in Sonari town. At Khatkhati, AASAA activists from Sivasagar and Dibrugarh districts took part in the protest programmes. At Panitola, a road blockade was staged jointly by the Tinsukia district, Chabua and Panitola units of the AASAA.

AASAA leaders submitted memorandum to the Chief Minister through the local administration, reiterating their demand for implementation of the State’s Minimum Wage Act in the tea plantations of Assam.

While criticizing the role of the Assam government on the issue of increment of minimum wage for the tea workers of Assam, the AASAA leaders said that the State government has, in fact, mortgaged the tea workers to the big tea companies. “The same big tea companies of the State have plantations in South India and West Bengal. Under the given conventional norms, why should there be disparity between Assam and other States as far as the tea wages are concerned? What is the logic behind giving daily wage of Rs 94 in Assam, and Rs 254 in Kerala?” they said.

“It is surprising that the State government is not taking any initiative in implementing the Minimum Wages Act 1948 in the State’s tea gardens,” AASAA president Raphael Kujur said.

AASAA has also condemned the Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha (ACMS) for its alleged dubious role. “The ACMS has so long worked more for the tea companies than for the welfare of the tea workers. The ACMS has been siphoning off even the minimum amount that the workers receive as wages. We protest this and hold each of the office-bearers of ACMS, like Paban Singh Ghatowar, Bhimananda Tanti, Dileswar Tanti, RP Singh, Raju Sahu and others, responsible for denying fair wage to the tea garden workers,” the AASAA president said.

The AASAA has decided to continue its agitation against the Consultative Committee of Planters’ Association (CCPA)- constituent members like the Indian Tea Association (ITA), Tea Association of India (TAI), Bharatiya Cha Parishad (BCP), Assam Tea Planters’ Association (ATPA), North Eastern Tea Association (NETA), the Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha and the State government, if they fail to provide or arrive at an agreement on the minimum wage for the tea garden workers of Assam.

Along with rail and road blockades, AASAA has also planned to block transportation of finished tea products from tea gardens as a mark of protest.

Doomdooma Correspondent adds: The Doomdooma, Talap and Phillobari branch committees of the All Adivasi Students’ Association of Assam blocked the National Highway 37 at Doomdooma this afternoon demanding that the tea labourers’ wages be increased to Rs 330, and that the wage settlement signed by ACMS and CCPA be cancelled. The protesters later submitted a memorandum addressed to the Chief Minister through the Revenue Circle Officer.

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