|AASAA’s indefinite hunger strike on ST status continues|
DHEKIAJULI, July 23 - The indefinite hunger strike by the All Adivasi Students’ Association of Assam (AASAA), supported by the Dhekiajuli unit of the Adivasi body in Dhekiajuli town in protest against the non-fulfillment of the long-pending demand to grant ST status to the community entered its fourth day today.
Expressing total annoyance over the Government’s apathy towards the community, the general secretary of the AASAA, Deben Urang said that the indefinite hunger strike was organised to protest against the shabby treatment meted out to the tea garden populace inspite of its tremendous contribution to social harmony, economic progress, political stability, cultural enrichment and language promotion and preservation in Assam. “It is ironical that till date they have been treated shabbily in their own home State and lag behind in all development parameters.” He alleged that the BJP Governments both at the Centre and the State during the election campaign had pledged that they would grant ST status to Adivasis if elected to power. “But in spite of repeated demands, nothing has been done. Ahead of the Assembly elections of 2016 in Assam, the Centre had constituted a ST modality monitoring committee which supposedly had to come out with its report in three months. But due to elections in Assam, the committee said that it was not able to complete its work. The committee sought an additional three months to complete the modalities. The extension period ended on September 22, 2016. But even then nothing has progressed.”
The general secretary of the central committee students body warned the Government not to further deceive the people and keep the community backward and deprive it of its constitutional and legal rights. He said that Adivasis have also historically been denied justice. “The tea industry which employs more than a million people pays a bare Rs 137 as cash wages to its workers in total and blatant violation of Minimum Wages Act of 1948. This is far below the minimum wages for unskilled workers in Assam which stands at Rs 250. The Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman during her recent visit to the State had said that wages in the tea gardens of Assam were critically low and that steps would be taken in this regard. The Prime Minister had announced that the minimum wages for unskilled workers should be Rs 350. But nothing has happened so far and the State Government has not shown any political or administrative will. AASAA therefore demands that the minimum wages to be paid to the workers should be Rs 350.”
He reiterated that the Plantation Labour Act, 1951 be immediately amended so that workers are able to enjoy other benefits to climb up the socio-economic ladder and live a dignified life. Deben Urang also stated that the Adivasi body would continue with its fast-unto-death and intensify other forms of democratic protest all over Assam to meet its demand.