This episode of ‘Awaaz Ho Bulaand’ has visuals of breathtaking views of Dooars area of North Bengal and the sloping verdant tea gardens, but, though the background is scenic, the living condition of the tea garden workers there is far from ideal.
The Tea Garden workers are indentured and it is generational - for e.g. to retain their house, they need to have one family member working in the garden, otherwise they lose the right to the house. They have issues of wages, employment benefits, medical and education, but the stark one is their right over their land - despite having worked in the tea gardens for generations, they have no right to their land and the house they live in. It is a semi feudal set up inside the tea garden.
The interviewees in this video are demanding their land rights. They have been giving applications to various departments over time and now they are mobilising people and raising a collective voice. They mentioned that as the labourers are without the Land Rights, they cannot avail the facilities of Governmental welfare schemes, which in turn push them more into the impoverished situation.
We can understand their penury and distress from their interviews. Generations upon generations of them had to suffer for meagre income and hard work, without any rights over their houses or land, it is a deplorable situation.
From 2015 onwards, they are mobilising and organising various protests - gram sabhas, rallies, street theatres etc to find a solution to their land rights issues. Video Volunteers also have made 8 films on this issue from 2015 and did 6 workshops with more than 350 + social workers on legal advocacy for their land rights.
They are so controlled that they can’t even repair their houses unless the estate manager gives them permission, or extend their house, and can’t do any business or open offices in their houses. They will not be able to get out of these intergenerational exploitation unless they get their land rights.
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The Community Correspondent (CC) Vinod Wankhede from Buldana, Maharashtra, in this video is speaking to Sanket Jaidev Wankhede, a final year Horticulture student who chose to become a youtuber in this lock down period.