One of the most neglected areas of West Bengal are the tea gardens in the Himalayan foothills towards the Northern part of the state. The region has been marred with low wages, malnutrition, lack of medical infrastructure, human trafficking and many other local issues. The present ruling party Trinamool Congress came to power on a popular wave riding against the left parties.
However, after being in power for a decade, the residents of West Bengal's tea gardens say nothing has changed for them on ground. The problems have remained as is, and in some cases, have become bigger. "During the British raj, there used to be a central hospital to provide medical facilities for tea garden workers. They had also passed the Plantation Act which cared for the welfare of the people, but that law too has not been implemented here," says Durgamali, a local resident of Bangabari that lies in the Atiabari tea gardens.
With wages as low as Rs. 202/day ($2.70), it becomes difficult for the tea garden workers to make a decent living. The government provides housing but the living conditions in these huts are akin to slums. Water, which comes once in two to three days, and electricity provided by the government is also charged for.
If the central government does not take a direct interest in the welfare and rehabilitation of tea garden workers, they would continue to suffer.
Avijit Adhikary is a journalist with nearly 8000 days of field experience till date. In the past two decades, he has witnessed the ebb and flow of the media industry in India, with ripples felt in his region too. This includes the rise of digital media, the decline of print...