Future of tea and cinchona garden workers is not safe under TMC Govt: Raju Bista

A series of hearings on the "Issues Affecting the Indian Tea Industry, especially in the Darjeeling region"  was held from the 7th of March, 2022 by the Commerce Committee with various stakeholders and Ministry of Commerce officials. BJP's alliance partners too were represented in these hearings. 


The Committee has come up with the following findings and recommendations for ensuring the well-being of the tea industry, and the tea workers in particular:

1. A body of eminent persons be formed to study the Parja Patta issue in depth


2. A legislation be enacted to ensure the Parja Patta rights of the workers

3. Government to ensure upward mobility of the wages, and the minimum threshold wages be determined only after due consultation with the workers

4. Govt to ensure expedited implementation of the Code on Wages Bill

5. Ministry of Commerce to prepare a database of plantation workers at the earliest for extending welfare facilities to the targeted beneficiaries through Government Schemes or Direct Benefit Transfer.

6. Govt to ensure speedy implementation of Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2020.

7. Ministry of Commerce to undertake strong and vigilant measures to counter the import of low quality and cheap tea from neighbouring countries.

8. Govt to ensure a more robust administrative framework and import inspection regime, along with establishment of NABL accredited Quality Control Lab in Darjeeling District.

9. Ministry of Commerce to settle outstanding subsidies of beneficiaries who had been accorded an NOC for completion of bonafied tea development activities.

10. Small Tea Growers (STGs) to be provided with a level playing field, and STGs to be brought under the promotional schemes of tea board.

11. STGs in Darjeeling District to be recognized as GI registered product at par with 87 tea estates. 

12. Tea sector to be benefitted by agricultural schemes of Union Govt such as Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana etc.

13. Darjeeling Tea Sector to be provided a financial revival mechanism by the Govt of India.

14. Tea Board to provide assistance to modernize and mechanize the Tea Industry in North Bengal in collaboration with financial institutions like NABARD.

15. Women tea workers should be made a part of the decision making process.

16. Aganwadi kendras, AYUSH health and wellness centres, Skill development centres and proper education facilities should be established and facilitated for overall wellbeing of women workers.

 

In his press release, MP Raju Bista writes:

 

Only two days ago, many political operatives and TMC propaganda networks went on overdrive when Hon'ble WB Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee ji told WB Chief Secretary to 'explore the possibility of permitting the tea garden workers to start homestay'. No one bothered to ask her, how can the tea garden workers start homestay, when majority of them stay in a two room quarter allocated to them by the company, and are not given permission to expand their dwelling space? In the absence of Parja Patta rights our sisters and brothers working in the tea gardens and cinchona gardens continue to remain most vulnerable.

The notices issued to the residents of Gumba Dara in Peshok stands as a stark reminder to us all that the future of the workers in tea garden and cinchona garden is not at all safe under the TMC Government. I have come to realize that, the sufferings of our sisters and brothers from the tea gardens and cinchona gardens will continue, as long as they continue to remain deprived of their parja patta land rights. 

Therefore, for the past two years, I have been working with the tea industry stakeholders from across our region - the tea planters, the tea garden workers, the tea sellers and other stakeholders to highlight the problems and issues facing the tea industry at the highest level of our government. I have been a part of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour and the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Commerce, and I have invited various tea industry stakeholders for hearings on tea garden related issues. 

In this regards, from the 7th of March, 2022 the Commerce Committee held a series of hearings on the "Issues Affecting the Indian Tea Industry especially in the Darjeeling region" with various stakeholders and Ministry of Commerce officials. Our Alliance Partners too were represented in these hearings. 

Recently, the Committee has come up with specific findings and recommendations for ensuring the well-being of the tea industry, and the tea workers in particular.

The committee has recommended: 

1. A body of eminent persons be formed to study the Parja Patta issue in depth

2. A legislation be enacted to ensure the Parja Patta rights of the workers

3. Government to ensure upward mobility of the wages, and the minimum threshold wages be determined only after due consultation with the workers

4. Govt to ensure expedited implementation of the Code on Wages Bill

5. Ministry of Commerce to prepare a database of plantation workers at the earliest for extending welfare facilities to the targeted beneficiaries through Government Schemes or Direct Benefit Transfer.

6. Govt to ensure speedy implementation of Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2020.

7. Ministry of Commerce to undertake strong and vigilant measures to counter the import of low quality and cheap tea from neighbouring countries.

8. Govt to ensure a more robust administrative framework and import inspection regime, along with establishment of NABL accredited Quality Control Lab in Darjeeling District.

9. Ministry of Commerce to settle outstanding subsidies of beneficiaries who had been accorded an NOC for completion of bonafied tea development activities.

10. Small Tea Growers (STGs) to be provided with a level playing field, and STGs to be brought under the promotional schemes of tea board.

11. STGs in Darjeeling District to be recognized as GI registered product at par with 87 tea estates. 

12. Tea sector to be benefitted by agricultural schemes of Union Govt such as Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana etc.

13. Darjeeling Tea Sector to be provided a financial revival mechanism by the Govt of India.

14. Tea Board to provide assistance to modernize and mechanize the Tea Industry in North Bengal in collaboration with financial institutions like NABARD.

15. Women tea workers should be made a part of the decision making process.

16. Aganwadi kendras, AYUSH health and wellness centres, Skill development centres and proper education facilities should be established and facilitated for overall wellbeing of women workers.

The tea industry is the main source of income and employment for the majority of the people from our Darjeeling hills, Terai and Dooars region. These recommendations are important tools that we can now use for ensuring these rights for our brothers and sisters in the Tea Gardens, as well as Cinchona Gardens.

The fate and future of our region is tied to ensuring the Parja Patta rights for our people, and I will leave no stone upturned to make this a reality. All I need is your continued support and solidarity.

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