This Ranicherra Tea Estate in Jalpaiguri, West Bengal was built in 1908. More than 5 thousand labourers are working there presently, and similar to the conditions of most of the Tea Estates in India, they are staying in the squalid labour quarters. Community Correspondent Rubi Saha, in this video, spoke to a few of the workers to learn about their living conditions.
To understand about the legalities of labour housing, there is a Labour plantation act of 1951, that mandates that the Tea Gardens provide accommodation to labourers if they work for more than six months. Nowadays, there is one Government Advisory Committee to look into labour accommodations, consisting of Government official, labour union and respective representative from the garden, 4 members of each in this tripartite set up. The commission is for concrete houses for labourers, with hygienic toilets, and a yearly painting of each labour quarters.
Let this information sink in. The 2013 census of the West Bengal Government states that more than 95 thousand Tea Garden labourers do not have any houses to live in and 2 lakh of them live in dilapidated houses.
In this video we can see interviews with the labourers, most of them working in this Ranicherra Tea Garden for more than 20 years. The visuals of their living conditions and their plight is heart wrenching. In this tea garden, of the 3 divisions of labour quarters, almost 5 to 6 hundred houses are worn down and the labourers are facing the vagaries of weather, every day. These houses are more than 60 years old without any repair.
The labourers know about Government housing schemes such as Indira Awas Yojana and Prime Ministers Awas Yojana, and they said in their interview that they are deprived of all these schemes as they reside in labour quarters of a private company. Albeit, in this situation, they even have to take permission from the Tea Garden manager to get their house repaired, if they can afford to!
Frequently, they orally complain to the manager of the estate, and most of the time he reassures that the complaint has been sent to their HQ in Kolkata and the problem will be resolved. Now the labourers are seeking help from the labour commissioner through their Unions and considering a ‘Gate Meeting’ - a form of protest to have a meeting at the entry gate with the authorities, refusing to work till they come into a formal assurance about ameliorating their living conditions.
Please see the condition of their living quarters in this video and request you to share, so that the first cup in the morning, for most of us, is cruelty-free.
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...