Planters have filed a petition in the Calcutta High Court against the state government's decision to hike wages of tea workers from Rs 232 to Rs 250 a day on an interim basis.
As the Trinamool Congress-led state government, after enactment of the West Bengal Land Reforms Act 2000, has finally decided to recognise plantation of tea in new areas after 30 June 2001, Minister in Charge of Labour Department Moloy Ghatak has said that tea workers associated with Small Tea Gardens (STG) will be getting the daily-rated wages similar to those in registered tea gardens (RTG).
It may be noted here that Minister Ghatak held a meeting with trade unions and planters here on 12 April and announced that tea workers in the RTG, who are getting Rs 232 a day will be getting Rs 250 a day, after giving them ‘interim relief’ of Rs 18 a day.
Asked to comment on the wages of the workers in STG, Mr Ghatak said: “After completion of all processes of regularization, post-facto conversation of land made before 7 November 2017, considered by the state government by enactment of West Bengal Land Reforms (Third Amendment) Act, the tea workers will also be getting the same rate similar to workers in RTG.”
Mr Ghatak did not mention other benefits for them in detail like wages for RTG workers. Notably, workers in STG get lesser wages than the RTG workers at present, and significantly small growers pay different wages in different areas. Recently, a trade union had lodged a complaint with the Labour Department, demanding “equal wages for equal job.”
On the other hand, small growers, who have been demanding recognition of their tea land, to avail several benefits from banks as well as other benefits from both the state and the central governments, have expressed their happiness over the state government decisions.
Interestingly, during the Left regime, the state had set a cut-off date of 30 June 2001, but despite the order, several people have started tea cultivation, leaving agriculture. In fact, several small tea plantations have come up in North Dinajpur, Siliguri and Jalpaiguri, and interestingly the Teesta Project has been rolled out to mainly provide irrigation for Kharip Crop.
Asked to comment, the president of the Confederation of Small Tea Growers Association (CISTA), Bijoy Gopal Chakraborty, said: “Practically, STGs will be getting birth certificate of land following the state government’s decision to recognise tea plantations which will help avail bank loans. Secondly, after issuing NOC (No Objection Certificate) of the land for tea cultivation, the governments will also be able to prepare several schemes for STGs.”
“We are really happy with the decision after waiting for 22 years. Unofficially, more than 50000 small tea gardens and nearly 3000 project gardens have come up and are producing green tea leaf, covering 45,000 hectares of land in the region,” Mr Chakraborty said, adding, “Two million people are involved directly and indirectly. STG contributes 63 percent share of its total production of tea of this region.”