A civil society group comprising of several non-government organisation presented report of their study on the starvation deaths of workers in the Bhuvan valley tea estate in Assam on 25 February 2012 before media in Guwahati that corroborated reports of the Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC) The Guwahati based civil society group further claimed that “twelve people have died due to starvation and the condition of 45 other labourers is still serious in the Bhuban Valley tea estate. The management decided to close down the estate Oct 11, 2011 and it led to starvation as the labourers have no other option to earn their livelihood.”
The preliminary report that they have issued is posted here.
CIVIL SOCIETY INQUIRY REPORT OFBHUBANVALLEYTEA ESTATE DEATHS
Till now 11 persons have died since the tea garden was locked on 11 October 2011. The news of the death of 10 people in Bhuban valley Tea Estate in Cachar district had appeared in the electronic and print media. In order to understand the ground reality and in order to verify the cause of the death, a team consisting of members from civil society visited the site on 22 and 23 February 2012. Saito Basumatary, coordinator of People’s Rights Forum, Wilfred Topno, President, Adivasi Sahitya Sabha-Assam, Stephen Ekka , Director, PAJHRA, Godfrey Here, Secretary, Nawa Bihan Samaj and Rejan Horo, organizing secretary, central Committee AASAA made an extensive study of the situation.
The team visited the families of the victims, interacted with the members , met the garden assistant manger, panchayat members, health department and labour department. It interviewed the people concerned and collected relevant data. It met the members of other activist groups like – BHRPC (Barak Human Rights Protection Committee), Monierekhal Tea Estate Youth Club and Seva Kendra . It discussed individually and with the groups on the issue of the death of workers during the lock out period.
Bhuban Valley Tea Estate is situated about 50 km away from Silchar and falls under Motinagar Police station in Lakhipur constituency. On 14 January 2012 Sentinel news paper had carried the news of death of 10 workers from the tea garden. Thereafter it also appeared in the electronic media. The tea garden has 900 ha of land with tea plantation and labour hamlets. According to its register 480 permanent members and some 500 temporary labours work in the tea plantation. The total population of the tea plantation is about 2000.
- Name & Adress :BhubanValleytea Garden, P.O. Motinagar Dist: Kachar
- Tea Garden owner : Ghanasham Sarda, Mr.Basant Barua (Director)
- Population: 2000,House hold around 1000 Permanent Labour: 480 including sub-staff.
- There are three division of Bhuban Valley TE, 1.Moti Nagar Division, 2. Chaigur Division, 3. North Bank Division.
- Tea Garden management closeted T.E. on 11 october 2011 without any notice to the tea garden labourers
The Bhuban Valley TE is said to be owned by Sarda Company. However, it appears to have been mananged by different individuals. Prior to 2002, the tea garden did not seem to have problem. However later the people were not getting their PF and other benefits. It was discovered that the PF was not deposited for several years which amounted to Rs. 65 lakhs. The management showed that due to lack of profit from the garden they were unable to deposit the amount. When these poor household have been given opportunity to work around with living wages and better management of the garden, the laborers would not have been led to such acute poverty. The estate is poorly managed and with much negligence of the management for the well being of the laborers. As a result the estate management may have suffered lost and the blame has been always on the poor laborers for the non-productive works. And these might have resulted for agreement after agreement between the management and union of laborers especially leader mostly influenced by political purposes by imposing unconstitutional provisions on the poor laborers for productive works. But these provision seems to have been unworkable and the blame has been of unproductive works of the laborers by the management. As such there have been lock out in the tea garden without prior notice to the laborers.
However on the other side of the story, the cause of poor management of the estate has many reasons. Firstly the actual owners of the estate are stranger to many of the laborers and district officials. Poor laborers, who have already retired, have never seen the real owners. It is reported that since the owner has many other businesses in other places and the actual owner never comes for managing and monitoring the estate. So the management seems to be a proxy management through staff and other close individuals. Even this is vivid clear when in one of the prosecution cases against the management, that the individual who are managing on ground and paper commented in the appeal cases mentioning they are not the real owners and so unable to be prosecuted.
During the lock out every work was suspended. The tea garden dispensary was closed, the people had no work and no pay. Most of the families being dependant on the tea garden, were driven to go to the forest and sell fire wood, look for work in nearby village, where they were compelled to work for less money than in the tea garden. In the garden they were paid Rs. 51/- where as they were forced to work for Rs. 40/- or 30/-.
During the lockout period the some labourers were taken to the other tea gardens for work, few were going for daily wage in nearby villages and some of them were going out to collect firewood and sell them in the market place. Young boys and girls are migrating to other cities in search of work to support their family members.
When the labourers are taken to the other gardens for work where they are paid Rs.50.00 as wage, when they are going to work in the nearby villages they are paid Rs.30.00 – Rs.40.00.
They collect “Kham Alu”, “Pan Alu” and Kola phul etc. from the nearby forest and hill for their survival
- Wage of this tea garden is @Rs.50/- per day whereas wage in the other Barak valley Tea Estates is @Rs51/-, Brahmaputra valley is @Rs71.51/- andWest Bengal@Rs.85/-
- Ration 6kg per 2week,
- One third of the house hold are fully dependent on Tea Garden if garden is closed they can not survive.
The people do not have any other source of income.
During the lock out period the hospital was closed though a pharmacist was looking after the tea garden hospital. At the same time they do not have enough money to diagnose and treat them with the private practiceners or take the patient to the town. There is a PHC at Sonai (about 8 km) and a Sub-Centre at Motinagar (around 2 km) away.
It was found that many children and adults were suffering from different diseases.
Drinking Water& Sanitation
The tea garden set up lacks drinking water facility. There are two ring-wells which are hardly 8-10 ft deep and during this period it is dry. There is one PHE unit setup at the Tea Garden in the year 2011 but it is non functional.
The people walk up to 4-5 km up on the foot hill to collect water from a spring, or collect water from the nearby ponds and canals which is unsafe for drinking purpose.
People are undernourished and prone to various diseases.
Women are anemic. Children are malnourished.
VIOLATION OF LEGAL PROVISIONS
There is violation of Plantation Labour Act. No provision of drinking water facilities, housing, medical facilities.
When the company is not able to provide the life saving measures. The management of the company should be handed over to the government.
The health condition of the people is in critical stage. The critically ill women and children particularly need immediate care. Even after the tea garden opened on 7 February, two more people have died all due to lack of sufficient food and medicine.
- extra allocation of pds ration
There is need to provide them relief by way of supplementary food articles for at least 6 months.
- Immediate and proper medical support
Even though there is tea garden hospital which is provided with some minimum medicine during the last week, there is no nurse and a doctor. A doctor with a nurse should be provided with medicines.
- Drinking water facilities
PHE water supply should be made functional and water supply connection should be set up to the hamlets where the tea workers inhabit
There is alleged problem of ownership of the tea garden. We hold Government responsible for the ill management and for all the mishap on the tea workers. Government should take responsibilities as the tea gardens are not able to manage themselves.
- IMPLEMENTATION of supreme court order
The supreme court order of provision of basic food and nutrition to the people has not been followed. The management should be taken to tasks.
All the entitlement of the government such as 100 days of work, job card to even permanent workers family, proper distribution of the PDS, provision of housing should be immediately.
- Provident Fund
Criminal procedure should be taken for the years of PF that has not been deposited by the tea management.
- WILFRED TOPNO 2. STEPHEN EKKA
President Adivasi Sahitya Sabh Director, PAJHRA
- SAITO BASUMATARY 3. GODFREY HERE
Coordinator, People’s Rights Forum Secretary, Nawa Bihan Samaj
- REJAN HORO
Organizing secretary, AASAA
Death ListLbetween Oct 2011 to Feb 22.
|Name of Death person||Sex||Age||Address|
||M||60||North Bank Division|
||F||3||North Bank Division|
||F||65||North Bank Division|
||M||75||North bank Division|
||M||60||North Bank Division|
||M||45||North Bank Division|
||M||85||North Bank Division
||F||75||North Bank Division
||M||55||North Bank, Division
Situation in the Barak valley Tea Garden
There are 106 registered Tea Garden out of that 7 tea garden are closed or Abandoned tea Gardens. Situation may be worse or similar to Bhuban valley Tea Garden. Those tea Garden are the following:
- Durganagar TE
- Modon Mohon
- Sreebehula TE
- Sengla Chera T.E(taken by new company)
- Chincoorie TE
- Sarswati TE