The state government has identified 35 tea gardens as “distressed” where the condition of the workers is particularly bad and is coming up with socioeconomic packages for them.
All these tea gardens are located in the Dooars. Of these, 23 tea gardens are closed and in the remaining tea gardens, wages are paid very irregularly. The state has 278 registered tea gardens and over 20,000 small tea gardens that are unregistered. The recently constituted Group of Ministers (GoM) has found out that workers of these tea gardens live in deplorable conditions with many suffering from malnutrition and a host of diseases.
The GoM has asked several departments, namely labour, health, education, food and supplies, women and child development, backward classes welfare, tribal affairs, power and public health engineering to prepare packages depending upon their respective budgetary provisions. “The departments have been asked to assess the requirements of the tea garden workers and the ways in which those can be met. If things go as planned, the packages would be ready in a month,” said a senior minister. To start with, medical teams and “health mobile vans” would be deployed in these areas. “Health is a major concern for workers of these tea gardens. Effort is on so that treatment can be provided immediately to a worker after he falls sick,” he added.
Next, anganwadi centres would be set up in these areas so as to arrest the problem of malnutrition among mothers and children. Measures are being taken so that benefits of schemes like the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and Mid-day Meal can be extended to the children of the tea workers.
It is also being contemplated to provide pension to elderly workers. The backward classes welfare department has come up with a proposal to provide pension to 6,000 elderly workers and is working out the quantum of aid to be extended to them. The labour department has been designated as the nodal department and is coordinating with all the departments for finalising the schemes.
35 tea gardens have been identified as distressed.