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Increase in working hours against human dignity: AASAA
Staff Correspondent

AASAA activists and workers staging a protest against the government’s move to increase working hours, at Pithaguti TE in Dibrugarh district on Thursday. – UB Photos
 DIBRUGARH, May 21 - The recent amendments in the labour laws in the State has put the plantation workers in jittery. The decision of the State Cabinet to increase working hours from 8 hours to 12 hours has been labelled as government’s oppressive resolution by the plantation workers.

As the world marked the 1st International Tea Day today, the plantation workers led by All Adivasi Students’ Association of Assam (AASAA) in several tea gardens staged demonstrations against the increase in working hours and other issues by maintaining social distancing. The workers have made it clear that they are not going to submit to the diktat.

AASAA vice president Rustom Kujur has questioned as to how government or the employers could force workers to toil for 12 hours. “We are not going to tolerate forced labour and anything that is against the basic human dignity. The workers have their children who need time from their parents for upbringing and care. Government cannot detach the parents from their children. It is sheer cruelty on the part of the government and we strongly condemn it. The government needs to withdraw its decision immediately,” said Kujur as they held demonstration in Pithaguti tea estate near Rajgarh town.

As part of the Statewide protest called by AASAA, demonstrations were also organized in Madhuting tea estate in Duliajan, Shalmari tea estate in Tingkhong and in tea estates of Satyanarayan, Balimara and Purushotam near Naharkatia town within the district. The workers have opposed the increase in working hours and have resolved to stand united against the State Cabinet’s decision. “We are ready to work on Sundays to recover the losses incurred by the tea gardens during the first phase of the lockdown period but we are not going to toil for 12 hours,” a woman worker from Madhuting tea estate told newsmen during their protest.

The protest in Duliajan was spearheaded by Manoj Oraon, general secretary, AASAA, Dibrugarh district. Mithu Kisku, assistant general secretary, AASAA, Dibrugarh organized the protest in Shalmari tea estate while Michael Purty, secretary, AASAA, Naharkatia regional committee led the protests in Naharkatia areas.

AASAA also demanded the government to ensure payment of wages and distribution of rations to all the workers of the tea gardens for the first phase of the lockdown period, as per government order. The Adivasi student body has also expressed its support to the Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha (ACMS) and other central trade unions during tomorrow’s nationwide protest against the anti-worker policies of the government.

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