West Bengal reopens tea gardens with a 25 percent workforce.
By Nihan Parveen
West Bengal government has allowed gardens to reopen with 25 percent of the labourers, mainly to skiff or prune overgrown bushes.
Priyankar Saha, owner of Santosh tea estate said, “2020 has been a year of odds for most of the companies. During the first flush which was in March, the productions were low. The second flush (April-May) was about to start before the lockdown. So, there has been an outflow of cash and no income. Companies need to start manufacturing on any terms to avoid incurring more losses.”
Amidst the COVID-19 lockdown, tea estates have been closed during the peak plucking season of the crop, beginning March. This year, the closure of tea estates during most of the plucking season can result in a crop loss between 10 and 25 percent for the industry.
“In my garden around 1200 permanent workers are employed. Now working with only 25 percent of them is going to be difficult. As the garden was already closed, the books are weak. The authorities should provide some kind of incentives to the companies for preventive measures. This would not only help the labourers but also help the companies as they continue to face huge losses,” said Fayaz Hossain, Manager of Dumchipara tea estate
“We have divided the workers in a batch of 300, which will change every day to ensure payment for all the workers. The company is also providing sanitizers, gloves, and masks to the workers. The gardens are facing both, financial and crop yielding losses,” he added.
The notice issued by the government for proper hygiene practices must be ensured and it is the responsibility of the organization to provide those measures.
Anadi Sahu, General Secretary of Centre of Indian Trade Unions said, “There is no proper supply of sanitizers, masks, and gloves in North Bengal by the State government. They have asked the workers to get back on the field without providing them with any protective gear. Had the government fulfilled these responsibilities, it would have held the labourers and owners alike. The trade unions of 26 tea gardens are planning to have a dialogue with concerned authorities.”