DIBRUGARH, June 28 – The tea garden workers led by the All Adivasi Students’ Association of Assam (AASAA) as part of its State-wide agitation organised cycle rallies in different parts of the State on Friday to press for hike in the daily wages of the workers engaged in the tea plantations across Assam.The Adivasi students’ body of the State, which has strongly opposed the existing wage structure of plantation workers has said that the present wage structure is irrational and against conventional universal norms. The stipulated legal minimum wage in the State is Rs 169 but the tea garden workers in the Brahmaputra valley are paid a meagre Rs 94 as daily wage.
AASAA president Raphale Kujur, who led the cycle rally in Khowang, Halmari, Bamunbari and in Moran in the district said that the tea planters in the State were flouting the Minimum Wages Act by not adhering to its statutory guidelines. “The prescribed daily wage payment is in monetary terms and the planters must not mislead by trying to justify the minimum wages in kind like education, health, drinking water and housing facilities etc. Like any citizen of the country, a worker in the tea plantation must earn wages as per the Minimum Wage Act. The plantation worker must also benefit from Sunday as paid holiday,” Kujur said.
The students’ body of the Adivasis has been demanding Rs 330 as daily wage for the tea garden workers without any deductions for the facilities provided in kind or monthly salary of Rs 10,000 to each worker. AASAA has said that low wage in the tea plantation has been the root cause of poverty, malnutrition, illiteracy, poor health conditions, highest infant mortality rate, inhuman living conditions and trafficking etc.
Kujur said that AASAA would continue its campaign for immediate review of the wage structure in the plantations with various programmes particularly in the tea belt of Assam. “Unlike other plantation workers in South, tea garden workers in Assam are largely exploited by the tea estate management authorities under the patronage of a major political party. The workers have realised the nexus between the planters and political leaders and henceforth no one can take the workers for a ride,” the AASAA leader said.