Assam body calls for shutdown of tea estates across State on March 22

Association to launch campaign against government over workers’ wage issue.

The Assam Tea Tribes Students’ Association (ATTSA) has called for a complete shutdown of tea estates across the poll-bound State on March 22 over the issue of plantation workers’ daily wages.

The body has also resolved to launch a State-wide awareness campaign against the BJP-led government for “deliberately exploiting” plantation workers by using “wage as a tool” for extracting votes from them.

The decisions against the wage hike “deceit” and “indifferent attitude” of the BJP were taken at an emergency executive meeting of the association in eastern Assam’s Dibrugarh on Thursday.

The March 22 shutdown assumes significance ahead of the first phase of polling on March 27, which covers 47 seats, mostly in the tea-growing areas of eastern Assam.

“The BJP-led government totally failed to fix the minimum wages of tea garden workers since 2018. They had announced an interim wage hike by ₹30 ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha poll and another interim amount of ₹50 before the 2021 Assembly poll, which was stayed by the Gauhati High Court because the planters were not consulted,” ATTSA president Dhiraj Gowala said.

“It is crystal clear that the interim hikes are only to lure votes for the party. We condemn this disgusting practice of the BJP-led government. We will now launch a campaign across the plantations explaining how the BJP and the AGP [Asom Gana Parishad] are using the wage issue to fool the workers,” he added.

The loosely termed “tea tribes” and “ex-tea tribes”, broadly referred to as Adivasi, constitute about 20% of Assam’s total population of 3.3 crore. Although the State government has been transferring cash benefits to 7.5 lakh workers, there are an estimated 10 lakh of them.

The Adivasis, who were brought by the British colonists from central India almost 200 years ago for plantation work and logging, can influence the outcome in 40-45 of 126 Assembly seats in Assam.

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