State labour minister Moloy Ghatak has asked planters to start paying Rs 9 a day for an interim period, as value of the traditional ration the workers used to get from garden owners, among tea workers in this region with effect from 1 May 2018.

The decision was taken in a meeting of the Minimum Wages Advisory Committee, which was held in Kolkata on Monday. Planters also tabled their proposals on the matter.

Trinamul Congress-backed trade union leaders expressed happiness over the interim payment of the ration value. According to a Trinamul trade union leader, Nirjal Dey, daily rated permanent workers will be getting Rs 159 a day with effect from 1 May 2018.

Notably, the state government, having failed to implement the Minimum Wages Act in tea plantations, asked to pay interim wages of Rs 17.50 a day with effect from 1 January 2018 so that tea workers can get Rs 150 a day.

Before the interim payment order, a tea worker used to get Rs 132.50 a day. “The decision was taken following the system of Assam and Tripura. In both the states, planters provide ration to workers. Workers of those two states get two types of ration–one from National Food Security Act and second one from planters,” a senior official of the labour department said.

“However, tea workers in West Bengal have not been getting ration from planters since February 2016 after the NFSA was implemented in the tea belt,” he added.

Official sources said Minister Ghatak finally asked planters to pay an interim value of the ration as the house failed to draw a conclusion and ascertain the exact value. Official sources said the state labour department will study the proposal of the Minimum Wage Advisory Committee in Assam.

The Committee has proposed the state to pay Rs 351 a day, as minimum wages for tea workers, adding the value of payment in kind (fringe benefits). “We need to study the proposal of the committee to pay Rs 351, keeping in mind the Plantation Labour Act,” a senior labour official said.