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1/28/2017 EthnicityandIsolation:MarginalisationofTeaPlantationWorkersbyProf.SharitK.

Bhowmik

24thJuly2016 EthnicityandIsolation:MarginalisationofTeaPlantation
WorkersbyProf.SharitK.Bhowmik

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(TheauthoristheformerchairpersonoftheCentreforLabourStudiesatTataInstituteofSocialSciencesandpresentlyisadjunct
faculty at Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Contemporary Studies, University of Mumbai. This paper deals with the conditions of tea
plantationworkersintheframeworkofethnicityandmarginalisation.Itdealswiththecaseoftribalteaplantationworkersinthe
state of West Bengal in India who, largely due to their ethnic status and isolation within the plantations, have remained
marginalisedovertheyears.Thepaperbeginswiththefeaturesoftheplantationsystemandtriestoshowhowthespecificmeans
of control over labour resulted in unfree relations. In most countries where plantations exist, the labour form a part of the
formal/organizedworkforceastheyhavepermanentandsecurejobsandtherearelawsregulatingtheiremploymentandwork.Yet,
despitethesecomparativelyrecentsafeguardsitisfoundthatplantationlabourinIndiacontinuetoliveinunfreeconditions.This
paperexaminesthereasonsforthissituation.)

Plantations were a major industry in the world at the time of the industrial revolution. They were
spreadoverlargetractsoflandandproducedsinglecommercialcrops.Theywereestablishedlargely
in tropical areas. According to a definition provided by the International Labour Organisation, the
term 'plantation' at first referred to a group of settlers or a political unit formed by it under British
colonialism,especiallyinNorthAmericaandtheWestIndies(ILO1950:6).Withthecolonisationof
AfricaandAsiabyBritishandEuropeanentrepreneursandcolonialiststhetermacquiredabroader
connotation. It came to denote largescale enterprises in agricultural units and the development of
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certainagriculturalresourcesoftropicalcountriesinaccordancewiththemethodsofwesternindustry
(Ibid:9).
The main plantation crops were cotton (in the early stages in the southern part of United States of
America), sugar cane (Caribbean Islands, northern part of Latin America, Mauritius, Fiji, etc.),
tobacco(southernpartofUnitedStates,Indonesia,etc.),tea(India,China,Indonesia),coffee(Brazil),
rubber(Malaysia),cocoa(Ghana).
Historically, plantations were a product of colonialism and their produce was mainly for export. In
some cases, such as rubber, they were established to provide raw materials for western industry
especiallyforthecolonisingcountry.Inotherssuchastea,coffeeandsugar,theirmarketslayinthe
colonisingcountries.

Development of plantations necessitated two basic requisites. Firstly, large areas of cultivable land
and secondly, a large labour force. However, the areas most suited for plantations were initially
sparsely populated and hence local labour was not sufficient. The planters were by and large not
inclined to take local labour, even if available, because they would have better bargaining power.
Beingalabourintensiveindustry,reducinglabourcostswouldconsiderablyincreasetheprofitsofthe
planters. Moreover, the planters neededtogetthemaximumworkfromthelabourforce.Whatthis
actuallymeantwasthattheplanterswantedcheapandhardworkinglabourunderconditionsoflabour
shortage.Suchasituationappearedaswishfulthinking,buttheplantersmanagedtomakeitareality.
Theonlywaytheplanterscouldmanagetogetcheaplabourunderlocallabourshortagewasbynot
allowingthelabourmarkettodevelop.Normally,whenthelabourmarketiscomparativelyfree,the
demandforandsupplyoflabourdeterminewages.Ifthereishighdemandforlabourandlowsupply,
wageswouldrise.Plantationsfacedsimilarconditionsbuttheplantersdidnotwanttoincreasewages
to attract workers. Instead they imported labour from outside at low costs. These immigrants were
initiallyimportedasslavesandlaterasindenturedlabour.Thecottonplantationsinthesouthernpart
ofUSA,thesugarplantationsintheCaribbeanIslandsandinotherplacessuchasGuyana,Mauritius,
Fiji etc. were all run on slave labour from Africa in their early stages of growth. After slavery was
abolished, indentured labour from Asia was used. Besides getting cheap labour, these systems of
recruitment ensured that the labour force stayed on the plantation under the total control of the
planters.Theplantationhencecametoknownnotjustbyaresidentlabourforcebutmoreoftenthan
not,'withoneofalienorigin'(Greaves1959:115).

Theslavetradewasaverylucrativebusiness.ItinvolvedEuropeanscapturingAfricansandbundling
them off to plantations in different parts of the world. This trade was initiated by Spain and later
Britaintookoverthemajorpartofthetrade.RonRamdin,aCaribbeanhistorian,notesthat'European
enterpriseandslaveryduringtheseventeenthandeighteenthcenturies,andalsothegreaterpartof
thenineteenthcentury,werecloselyconnected,helping...thespectacularriseofBritish,Frenchand
Spanish ports such as Bristol, Liverpool, Nantes, Bordeaux and Seville' (Ramdin 2000: 3).
Christopher Hill notes that the slave trade financed the industrial revolution. He writes, 'Where did
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capitalfromtheIndustrialRevolutioncomefrom?SpectacularlylargesumsflowedintoEnglandfrom
overseasfromtheslavetrade,and,especiallyfromtheseventeensixties,fromorganizedlootingof
India.'(Hill1983:245).

Britain and France banned the slave trade in the midnineteenth century. After this the system of
indenture was adopted. Under this system the worker had to agree to serve on the plantation for a
specified period of time (usually four or five years) and would be free to return after that period.
Though this system was an improvement over slavery, which implied lifetime commitment without
anyrights,thelongdistancefromtheirplacesoforiginmadeitdifficult,ifnotimpossible,forworkers
toreturnhomeaftertheperiodoftheircontractended.Thiswasfurthermitigatedbythelowwages
paid by the planters that left hardly any savings for the return journey. Hence in most case these
peoplepreferredtoremainintheplantationsevenaftertheperiodofindenture,astheyhadnowhere
elsetogo.
Ethnically,themaindifferencebetweenslavelabourandindenturedlabourwasthattheformerwasof
AfricanoriginwhilethelatterwasfromAsia.Onedoesnotknowwhetherthecolouroftheskinhad
anything to do with these two systems, but it is most likely. Under indenture most recruits were of
Indianorigin,mainlypoorersectionsbelongingtothesocalledlowercastes.Onecanseethespread
oftheearlyIndianDiasporainmostoftheseplantationbasedcolonies(laterindependentcountries).
There were recruits from other regions too in some of the colonies. For example, the tobacco
plantations in Indonesia were run by immigrant Chinese labour (see Breman 1988). Hugh Tinkers
majorstudyonindenturelabour(Tinker1974)givesdetailedaccountsofwhathecallsanewsystem
ofslavery.
In fact Tinker's views are confirmed by later historical studies on indentured labour. One finds that
whether planters used slave labour or indentured labour the effect was similar, namely, having a
captivelabourforcethathadnoothermeansoflivelihoodsaveworkingontheplantation.Indentured
labour appeared to be free when compared to slave labour but this was not always true. Ramdin
(2000: 13) mentions a case of a planter, John Gladstone, who requested a Calcutta firm to supply
labour for his plantations in British Guyana. The firm replied that there were no difficulties in
supplyinglabourandadded,'theIndianswouldbeunawareoftheirdestinationsorthelengthofthe
voyage they were undertaking'.Such workers, who had to travel half was across the world, would
hardlybeexpectedtoreturnaftertheindentureperiodwasover.

PlantationLabourinIndia

TheteaindustryinIndiabeganwiththefoundingoftheAssamCompanyin1839.Thepotentialfor
growingteawasdiscoveredearlier,in1824,byMajorRobertBrucewhenhecameacrossindigenous
teabushesinAssam(ITA1933:vvi).AtthattimetheBritishEastIndiaCompanyhadamonopoly
over trade with China and it was importing tea from there. It had no interest then of opening other
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centres.In1833theBritishParliamentcancelledtheCompany'smonopolyovertradewithChina.Its
directors then decided to explore the possibilities of growing tea on commercial basis in Assam,
whichhadbeenannexedbytheCompanyin1825(Bose1954:12).Thefirstconsignmentofteawas
senttoLondonin1838asatrial(Tinker1974:29).WithinashortspanoftimeIndianteascoredover
its Chinese rival because of its thicker and stronger brew which increased its popularity among the
working class. As a result, by 1839, there was a mad rush to clear the hillsides of Assam for new
gardens(Ibid:29).Subsequently,teaplantationswerestartedintheDarjeelingandJalpaiguridistricts
of West Bengal, Nilgiris and Coimbatore districts of Madras (Tamil Nadu) and Idukki and Wynad
districtsofKeralabutthiswasoverthreedecadeslater.
The areas suited for growing tea in India were covered with thick, unhealthy forests where malaria
and kalazar (blackwater fever) were rife. These forests had to be cleared and the local population
wereunwillingtoworkunderthesehazardousconditionsandatthelowwagesoffered.Wagesoftea
plantation workers in Assam and Bengal remained static at around Rs. 3 per month during the late
eighteenth century and the early twentieth century (Griffiths 1967: 30910). Wages of agricultural
labour in these areas were more than double. The SubDivisional Officer of Karimgunj in Assam
reportedin1883thatwagesofteaplantationworkerswere'lessthanthreerupeesamonthduringthe
lastseason.Bengalisintheadjoiningvillagesearnedwithoutdifficultyrupeessevenamonth'(cited
inBose1954:87).WagesofagriculturalworkersinJalpaiguriinWestBengalwerebetweenRs.6and
Rs.7permonthin1871,ayearbeforeteaplantationswerestartedinthisdistrict(Hunter1872:278)
whereaswagesofteaplantationworkers,inthesubsequentyears,werearoundRs.3permonth.

Recruitmentthroughindenture

Labourrecruitedtotheplantationscomprisedmigrantsandtheplantersensuredthattheyworkedonly
ontheplantationatthelowwagesoffered.LabourinAssamandintheteaareasofJalpaiguridistrict
andTeraiinthefoothillsofDarjeelingdistrictwererecruitedfromthetribalpeopleofCentralIndia,
namely, the Chotanagpur region of the present Jharkhand state and the contiguous tribal belts of
OrissaandthepresentChattisgarhstateswhohadbeenreducedtopenuryduetofrequentdroughts,
faminesandruthlesslandrevenuepoliciessetbythecolonialrulers(Bhowmik1981,chapter2).
Thecolonialgovernment,eagertohelptheplanters,enactedlegislationwhichlegalizedthesystemof
indenture.In1859,theWorkmen'sBreachofContractActwaspassedwhichstipulatedthataworker
hadtoworkforaminimumperiodoffiveyearsoncerecruited.Theactrenderedtheworkerliablefor
prosecution for any breach of contract, but gave him no protection against the employers and laid
downnoconditionswithregardtothearrangementsofhistransittotheteadistricts.(Griffiths1967:
269).TheInlandImmigrationActof1863replacedtheearlieractanditreducedtheperiodofcontract
to four years, but it gave the planters the right to arrest erring workers (Chandra 1964: 36162).
Workers were cruelly dealt with if they tried to leave or if their work was not satisfactory. Griffith
notesthat'Theplanterwasboundbyhiscontracttoclearoneeighthofhisland(leasedtohimbythe
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government) within five years and he could illafford to lose his labourshort work was punished
with flogging and absconders, when recovered, were also flogged.' (Ibid: 270). The plight of
indentured tea labour in Assam evoked strong criticism from the rising nationalist movement (see
Bose1954fordetails).

Themostpopularmethodofrecruitinglabourwasthroughlabourrecruitingagentswhoroamedthe
draught stricken tribal inhabited areas of Central India. These agents were known as arkati and
plantations in Assam, relied on them for their labour supplies. These people had earned so much
notorietythatthelocalpeopleregardedthemasthe"scumoftheearth"and"heartlessscoundrelsand
they were feared as much as a "maneating tiger" (Das 1928: 65). Reverend Hoffman, a Lutheran
clericworkingamongthetribalpopulationinBiharhadpublishedanencyclopaediaontheMundas
(oneofthemajortribesintheregion).Hisaccountofthemisdeedsofthearkatiscoveredtendouble
column pages in the volume (Hoffman 1964: 15464). He noted that they deceived the people by
sayingthattheteagardenswereagovernmentconcern,andattimestheyalsodressedlikethepeons,
toconvincethemthattheyrepresentedthegovernment.Theseagentswouldstooptoanyleveltolure
peopleawayfromtheirhomestotheunhealthyteadistricts.Youngpeopleandunhappyanddeserted
wivesweregivenfalsepromisesofbettermarriageprospects.Throughlyingandtrickerytheywould
getsomepeopleexcommunicatedfromtheirvillages,leavingthemnoalternativebuttogotoAssam.
Wiveswerekidnappedfromtheirhusbands,andhusbandsfromtheirfamilies,leavingthemembers
destituteandpovertystricken."Heartrendingtragedieswhichcanrackeveryoneofthemostsacred
feelings of a human family were for long years, enacted so to say, constantly in all villages" (Ibid:
158). These hardworking povertystricken tribals of Chotanagpur were ideally suited for the tea
gardensastheywerealsothecheapestlabouravailable(Ibid:163Dalton1872:262).

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Recruitmentinotherareas
The abovementioned acts were applicable to only those areas where the system of indenture was
prevalent and this was in what is now the state of Assam. As mentioned earlier, the tea industry
originatedinthisstateandevennowitremainsthelargestteaproducingstateinIndia.Theregionwe
will be dealing with in this paper is Jalpaiguri district and the contiguous Terai (plains) region of
DarjeelingdistrictinthestateofWestBengal.TheteagrowingareaofJalpaiguridistrictisknownas
Dooars,meaninggateway,asthisareaisthegatewaytoBhutan.Theteaindustryherestartedin1872.
InsouthernIndiatoo,theindustrystartedaroundthesametime.Theseareasdidnotuseindentured
labour and the acts in existence in Assam were not enforced in the newer areas. However, even in
these areas workers found it difficult to leave their plantations as the planters used force to prevent
them from doing so. The government too did not provide workers any means to redress their
grievances.
Theplantersencouragedfamiliesratherthanindividualstomigratetotheplantations.Thisserveda
dual purpose. Firstly, since planters wanted cheap labour they had to have workers who were
permanently settled in the plantations and who had no opportunity for alternative employment.
Thereforebyencouragingfamiliestomigratetheyensuredthatworkerswerecutofffromtheplaces
of their origin and were settled in the plantations. The entire familymale, female and children
worked at wages determined by the planters. Secondly, family based migration ensured that labour
couldbereproduced,thussolvingtosomeextent,theproblemof7
futurerecruitment2.Duringthepresentperiod,however,thenotionoffamilyemploymenthasother
implicationswhichwillbediscussedlater.

RecruitmenttoDooarsandTeraiwasdonemainlybythelabourheadmenfromtheteagardensand
notbyprofessionalagentsasthearkatis.TheseheadmenareknownasSardarsandareineffectthe
leadersofagroupofworkersintheplantation.Thesepeopleweresenttotherecruitingdistrictsto
look for anyone willing to work in Bhutan (Grunning 1911: ccxxiii). The sardar was given a
commission between Rs. 2 and Rs. 5 per worker. The worker was also given advance of Rs. 10 as
incentiveandincasehefailedtoturnupthesardarhadtoreturntheadvancegiventothemanagerof
his plantation. The cost of travel to the plantation for the worker was a little over Rs. 2 which was
bornebytherecruiter(Ibid).
D.H.E.Sunder,officerforlandsurveyandsettlementforJalpaiguri,mentionsabouttherecruitment
systeminhisreport.HefoundthepricepaidtoarkatisforeachworkertoAssamwasbetweenRs.80
to Rs. 120 while the cost of transport and advance was between Rs. 20 and Rs. 30 per head. He
observes that the profit obtained in this trafficking of human beings is enormous and has
unfortunatelyledtoeveryformofvillainyandabusebeingpractisedthathumanagencycanconceive.
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TheDooarssardarsandrecruitershavetorunthegauntletofthearkatisalongthewholeroute,anda
considerable number of coolies (recruited workers) who were originally to leavefor the Dooars
gardensareluredawaybythearkatistotheAssamdistricts,tochangehandsthereatRs.100per
headandbeplacedundercontracts(indenture)(Sunder1895:ccxx).

Till the country became independent in 1947, the planters, with the backing of the colonial
government,exercisedtotalcontroloverlabour.Theplantershadtheirtradebodiestorepresenttheir
interestswhereastheworkerswerepreventedfromunionisingthemselves.ThereportofCommission
ofInquiryontheConditionsofTeaPlantationLabourinIndiaandCeylonsetupin1944(alsoknown
asRegeCommission,afteritschairperson)noted'theemployersarehighlyorganizedandpowerful
whereas the workers are all unorganized and helpless.' (Rege 1946: 96). The Commission
recommendedthenecessityoftradeunionsbutadmittedthattheywereunlikelytoappearinthenear
future(Ibid:193).ThereportofthestudygroupfortheteaindustryofthefirstNationalCommission
onLabournotedthatthemainreasonfortheabsenceoftradeunionsinthepreindependenceperiod
was because 'Access to the plantations was difficult, if not impossible, and attempts to form trade
unions before independence were seldom successful.' (NCL 1969: 64). Hence the mechanism for
collectivebargainingdidnotexisttill1947inthisindustrywhich,atthattime,employedoneanda
quartermillionworkers.

PostColonialSituation
Though plantations are historically linked with colonialism, they are not structurally, or inevitably,
linkedwithit.Ascoloniesfreethemselvesfromcolonialruleandbecomeindependentstates,anew
setofproductionrelationsdevelop.Politicalpressureforcesthesegovernmentstoprovideprotection
and security of employment to plantation workers. Coercion is relaxed and trade unions begin to
function among the workers enabling them to fight for their rights. Therefore the changes in the
plantation system in all parts of the world started when plantation labour began organising itself to
fightfortheirrightsandinfluencetheaffairsofthestate.
Insomecountries,suchasIndia,plantationlabouralsobenefitedfromthestrugglesofothersections
of the working class. In the initial postindependence stage plantation labour got benefits of laws
grantingprotectiontoworkers,mainlybecauseofthestrugglesofothersectionsoftheworkingclass
thathadpressurizedthegovernmenttopasstheselaws.Later,asaresultofthisprotection,plantation
labourwasabletoorganisestrugglesonitsown.
After attaining independence in 1947, the character of the Indian state changed. The new
governmentsattitudetowardstheworkingclasswasmorefavourablethanthatoftheearliercolonial
regime.Ittriedtoimposesomeregulationsontheclassofemployerswhilegrantingsomeprotection
totheworkers,hencetryingtofindaviamediabetweenthetwo.

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At the Indian Labour Conference3 held at Delhi in 1951, the representatives of workers put up a
strong plea for rational fixation of wages. The Conference decided to set up committees in various
industriestoformulatethestatutoryminimumwagesineachindustry,includingtea.In1952,forthe
first time, the statutory minimum wages were fixed for tea plantation labour (Government of India
1966:1314).Thisguaranteeofaminimumwageprovidedsomeprotectionforplantationworkers.
Theplanterscouldnolongerfixwagesaccordingtowhimsormerelyonweakbargainingpowerof
theworkers.Theyhadtonowaccepttheconceptofalivingwageandanyviolationwouldresultin
prosecutionundertheMinimumWagesActof1948.
Subsequently,otheractswerepassedgrantingsomefacilitiestotheworkers.Someoftheseacts,such
as, Payment of Bonus Act, legislations providing for Provident Fund and Gratuity affected the
workingclassingeneral.Therewereotheractstoowhichwerepassedafterindependencesuchasthe
IndustrialDisputesActof1947andtheFactoriesActof1948whichgrantedsecurityofemployment
and conditions for safety at the workplace. The planters initially ignored these acts as there was no
check on them and the state apparatus to enforce them did not exist. In the early 1950s the state
governments set up labour bureaus headed by a labour commissioner and labour officers were
appointedindifferentregionstoensureimplementationoftheprovisionsanddealwithconciliation
betweenlabourandmanagement.LabourTribunalswerealsosetuptodecideondisputes.

Allthesechangesresultedinformalisationofrelationshipsbetweentheplantersandtheworkers.The
plantersstartedlosingthetightgriptheyoncehadovertheirworkersandtheirrelationshipchanged
fromtheexistingmasterservantrelationshiptothatofemployerandemployee.Thelatterwasnow
notwhollydependentonthemerciesoftheemployerass/hehadsomelegalprotection.
Amongstthelegislationsaffectingplantationworkers,themostimportantisthePlantationLabourAct
of1951.Thisistheonlyactthatseekstoraisethelivingstandardsofplantationworkers.Itcontains
several provisions related to housing conditions, health and hygiene, education and social welfare.
Thisact,alongwiththeFactoriesAct,regulatesemployment,workingconditionsandworkinghours.
Theactprovidesforcompulsoryhousingandlaysdownthateveryyeareightpercentofthehouses
havetobeconvertedintopermanentstructures(viz.wallsofbrickandmortarandtiledroofs).There
areprovisionsforsanitaryfacilitiesandwatersupplyinthelabourresidences(knownaslabourlines),
crchesforinfantsandprimaryschoolsforchildren.Theactthereforehasagreatdealofpotentialfor
improving the working and living conditions of plantation labour. However, despite the several
decadessincetheactwaspassed,thereispossiblynoteaplantationinAssamorWestBengalthathas
implementedallprovisions.
The above changes helped to provide greater freedom to the workers to some extent. They also
providethebasisforformingtradeunionsamongtheworkers.Infactitwecanpointoutthatthelevel
ofunionisationisfairlyhighamongplantationworkers.TheIndianNationalTradeUnionCongress
(INTUC) that has close links with the Indian National Congress has a wide membership in Assam,
though some other unions such as Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) that has links with
CommunistPartyofIndia(Marxist),AllIndiaTradeUnionCongress(AITUC)whichislinkedwith
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CommunistPartyofIndiaandUnitedTradeUnionCongresslinkedwiththeRevolutionarySocialist
Party have made inroads in some areas. In West Bengal the tea growing districts of Jalpaiguri and
Darjeeling have large numbers of trade unions operating. In Darjeeling the majority union is
Himalayan Plantation Workers Union of the Gorkha National Liberation Front. In Jalpaiguri
(Dooars), which is the larger of the two tea growing districts in the state, half the workers are
members of CITU affiliated unions followed by INTUC and UTUC affiliated unions respectively
(Bhowmik1993:56).InthispaperwewillbefocussingonteaplantationlabourinDooarsinorderto
getanunderstandingoftheprocessofmarginalisation.

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TeaPlantationLabourinWestBengal

West Bengal is the second largest tea producing state in the country. The state has two districts in
whichthebulkoftheteaplantationslie.TheseareJalpaiguriandDarjeelingdistricts,bothsituated
nexttoeachotherinthenorthernpartofthestate.Thetwodistrictscollectivelycontributeto20per
centoftheteaproducedinthecountry(TeaBoard2002:1112)andhavearound240,000permanent
workers, a little more than half of whom are women (Ibid: 1456). The total number of plantation
workersandtheirfamilieswouldnumberfivetimesthenumberofpermanentworkers.Theseworkers
arelargelydescendentsofimmigrantswhowerebroughttotheseareastoworkasplantationlaboura
fewgenerationsagoandtheyarenowpermanentlysettledintheseareaswithlittleornocontactswith
theirplacesoforigin.
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Jalpaiguriisthelargerofthetwodistrictsandithas165,000workers.Theteagrowingareainthis
district is known as Dooars. Darjeeling district has two tea growing areas, namely, Darjeeling hills
(where the famous Darjeeling tea is grown) and Terai which is in its foothills. Darjeeling hills has
around50,000workerswhileTeraihas25,000workers.Weshallrefertothethreeteagrowingareas
inthetwodistrictsasDooars,DarjeelinghillsandTerai.

ThetopographyandtheteagrowninDooarsandTeraiaresimilarandbothregionshavetheAssam
tea bush (Darjeeling Hills has China tea bush) that produces strong tea for mass consumption. The
work force too is similar. Most of the workers in these are tribals from the contiguous areas of
Jharkhand, Chattisgarh and Orissa that have tribal population. These include Oraons (who form
aroundhalfthetribalpopulation),Mundas,Kharias,andSanthalsamong
others. There are also other, nontribal artisan communities from the same area of origin, such as
Mahali.ChikBaraik,Ghasi,Turietc.Thesegroupscollectivelyformacommonidentitywhichcould
bedistinguishedfromtheotherpeopleintheregion(eg.Bengalis,Nepalisetc.)onethnicbasis.They
arecalledAdivasi(originalinhabitants)byothergroups.

PersistingMarginalisation
Though conditions of plantation workers have improved since independence, as compared to the
colonialperiod,theycontinuetoformthelessdevelopedsectionofthepopulationinthestate.The
tribal tea plantation labour population in Dooars form a minority in the population of the district.
Beforewecometotheimplicationsofthesituationwewillexaminetheconditionsofteaworkers.
Thedataistakenfromasurveyconductedbytheauthorin1995(Bhowmik1996).Asampleof182
householdsintheregionwascovered.Thoughthisdataistwelveyearsold,atthetimeofwritingthis
paper,thesituationissimilaratpresent,ifnotworse.Ihavemadeperiodicvisitstotheteagrowing
areasofWestBengalsince1998andmyobservationsalsoshowthatnotmuchhaschanged.Infact
theturnfortheworsecouldbeobservedafter2001becausealargenumberofplantationsinDooars
hadshutoperationsleavingtheirworkersdestitute.
ThesurveyexaminedwhetherprovisionsofthePlantationLabourAct(PLA)hadbeenimplemented.
The PLA was passed by parliament in 1951 but it came into effect in 1955. This act stipulates a
number of guidelines relating to living and working conditions of plantation workers. It lays down
that the employers must provide workers with permanent structures as houses, there should be
sanitary facilities and supply of drinking water in the labour lines (quarters). The plantation must
providefreeprimaryeducationtochildrenofplantationworkersthroughprimaryschoolswithinthe
plantations.Therearealsoprovisionsforrecreationandcheapcanteensfortheworkers.Thelivesof
plantationworkerswouldimprovesubstantiallyiftheseprovisionswereimplemented.Inreality,there
isnotasingleteaplantationinthestatethathasfulfilledallprovisionsoftheact.

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According to reports of the state government (GoWB: 2005) around 74 per cent of the workers'
housesarepermanentstructures(viz.wallsofbrickandmortarwithtiledroofsorofcorrugatediron).
Theothersliveinmudhousewiththatchedroofs.HadthePLAbeenimplementedallhousesshould
havebecomepermanentstructuresin1969.Accordingtothereporthouserepairsarenotcarriedout
by the employers and in most cases workers have to bear these costs. Toilets too do not exist. The
surveycarriedoutbytheauthorshowsthatnoneoftheplantationscoveredhadregulartoilets.The
workers and their families used the open fields for this. Doctors in the plantations informed that
infection from hook worms is quite high among the labour force. These worms breed in open
defecation.Provisionofhousingandrepairingofhousesaremandatoryforthemanagementandthese
formapartoftheworkers'wages.
Themostdepressingdataisoneducation.Thedataon182headsofhouseholdsshowedthatnearly
half (49 per cent) were illiterate, 12 per cent were functionally literate, 22 per cent had primary
educationwhile14percenthadreachedmiddleschool.ThePLAstatesthateveryplantationhaving
twentyfive or more children have to provide for primary schooling for them. These heads of
householdswereintheirfortiesandhencewerebornafterthePLAcameintoforce.Theireducational
levelsindicatethattheydidnotgetofthebenefitofprimaryeducation.

Thegovernmentwiththecooperationoftheemployersrunsschoolsintheplantations.Theplantation
provides for the schoolhouse while the teachers are employees of the states education department.
My visits to the plantations show that most schools have not more than two classrooms and two
teachers.Thesmallerplantershaveoneteacher.Thesepeopleareexpectedtoteachchildrenforthe
firstfouryears.Therearesupposedtobeatleastfourclassrooms,oneforeachclass.Inmanycases
plantations have large numbers of children in the primary school going age but even in these cases
thereareonlytwoclassroomsandtwoteachers.Onewondershowknowledgecouldbeimpartedor
the children could imbibe it. In all probability the same course is taught every year for all students
irrespectiveofwhichyeartheyarein.
TheplantationsinDooarsareinisolatedareasandtheworkersandtheirchildrenhavelittleaccessto
employmentotherthantheplantationorinlowproductiveagricultureintheneighbourhood.Tribals
can rarely find employment in the towns because most jobs, even the manual ones, are held by
BengalisorimmigrantsfromBihar,RajasthanorsomeotherHindispeakingstate.Lackofeducation
restrictstheirchoicesofalternativeoccupationsbutthisisnotall.Theyarealsomarginalizedinthe
areawhichtendtomakethemgrouptogetherintheirowncommunitiesintheplantations.Hencethey
looktowardstheplantationforemploymentinthepresentandthefuture.

The vulnerable plight of tea workers could be seen when a crisis arose in the industry from 2000
onwards.Atthattimetheplantersclaimedthatteapricesstartedtofallandby2001theyfellbelow
thecostsofproduction.Around55teaplantationsinWestBengalclosedandtheirworkerswereleft
withnowagesorsourcesofincome.Thisheavydependenceontheplantationhadtakenaheavytoll
onplantationworkers,especiallythoseinDooars.Theyhadnoalternativeformsofemployment.It
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was estimated that between 2001 and 2006 nearly 1,500 people had died of malnutrition in tea
plantations,mostofthembeinginDooars.

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aOC3XoYEwLQ/V5TlZtipu1I/AAAAAAAAAPY/6OOnLaw_ZHs5yzvxeqgiziTKCplkc_xAQCLcB/s1600/11402369_882855428420616_3
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Whyplantationworkersareunfree
Thepresentproblemsofplantationlabourersandtheirfamilieshaverootsinthehistoricprocessof
theplantationsystem.Intheearlieryearstherewasacutelabourshortage.Theplanterscouldattempt
toovercomethisbyofferinghigherwagesandbetterlivingconditions.Thiswouldmeanthattheyhad
tospendmoreonlabourcosts.Theplantersknewthatthiswouldineffectreducethehugeprofitsthe
plantationindustrywasamassing.Giventhefactthatplantationstheworldoverbeganbyemploying
slave labour the planters tried to find similar type of labour even after slavery was abolished. They
thendevelopedanewcategoryofbondedlabourknownasindenturedlabour.Theearlyplantationsin
Assam engaged indentured labour from the tribal areas of Central India. We mentioned in the first
sectionthatthesystemofindenturewasnotusedinDooars.Thisismainlybecausetheplantershad
earnedabadreputationinthenationalpressbecauseoftheirexploitationoflabourthroughindenture.
TheteacompaniesthatoperatedinDooarswerethesameasinAssamandhencetheyavoidedtheuse
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ofindenturedlabour.HowevercontroloverlabourinDooarswasthesamedespiteofthelackoflegal
bindingthatwasprevalentinthesystemofindenture.Onceintheplantationareasworkerscouldnot
leaveorreturntotheirplacesoforigin.

There were two ways how this was done. Firstly they prevented workers and their families from
movingoutoftheplantationbykeepingworkerscaptiveintheplantations.Thewatchmen(guards)
keptastrictvigilinthelabourlinesandkeptawatchonanyoutsiderentering.Theplantershadthe
constantfearthatotherswouldluretheirlabouraway(seeBhowmik1981:chapter2fordetails).The
other way was of not allowing any form of alternative employment in the teagrowing region. This
would ensure that once in the plantation, the worker would be totally dependent on work in the
plantation for their sustenance. In the initial years of the plantations in Jalpaiguri the Forest
Departmenttriedtolureworkersbyofferingthemcultivablelandinexchangeofworkintheforest
plantations. The planters association protested strongly to this form of enticement as they had
brought their labour from considerable distance and had paid for the recruitment costs. They used
their influence on the colonial government to prevent the Forest Department from hiring plantation
labour(detailsinIbid).

The above methods served the objectives of the planters of having a captive labour force but when
thissystemcontinuedeveninthepostcolonialperiodwhentherewasnoshortageoflabour,itcreated
new problems for plantation workers and their families. Since there are hardly any employment
opportunities outside the plantation system the unemployed within the families of the workers look
towardstheplantationforgainfulemployment.Infactoneofthesignificantfeaturesofteaplantations
inWestBengalisthehighincidenceofcasuallabour.Theauthorhadconductedastudyin1992to
examine the extent of casual/nonpermanent labour in the work force (Bhowmik 1993). The survey
hadcollecteddatafrom149outofthe330teaplantationsinthestate.Thetotalnumberofworkers
coveredintheseplantationsaccountedforaround60percentofallpermanentteaplantationworkers
inthestate. The findings showed thattherewere50.5casualworkersforeveryhundredpermanent
workers.Inotherwords,onethirdofthetotallabourforcecomprisedcasuallabour.

Another significant finding was that an overwhelming majority of this labour was drawn from the
householdsofpermanentworkers.Theyweretheirchildren,spouseorkinsfolkandtheyresidedinthe
households of the permanent workers. This is quite different from casual labour in other major
industrieswherecasualortemporarylabourisnotnecessarilyrelatedtothepermanentlabourforce
(seeDavala1993).
Theavailabilityofalargepoolofunemployedwithintheplantationhasplacedtheemployersinan
advantageousposition.Theemployersnowusetheexistenceofcasuallabourtodepressthegeneral
wage levels. When trade unions press for higher wages at negotiations for wage revision, the
employers invariably tell them that a high wage is possible but the number of casual labour would
havetobereduced.Thisputstheworkersinafixbecausehigherwageswillincreasetheindividual
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incomebutareductionincasuallabourwilldecreasethehouseholdincome.Asaresult,theamount
ofwageincreaseisinevitablyscaleddown.

Lowwagesasaformofbondage

Letusbrieflylookathowwagesarefixedandtheeffectsoflowwages.Remunerationofaplantation
workerinDooarsisacombinationofwagesincashandkind.Apartfromthewagesincash,workers
alsoareprovidedfoodgrainsatsubsidisedrates.Eachworkerisprovidedonekilogramofriceand
two and a quarter kilograms of wheat every week. The same is provided for dependent children,
between ages 15 and 18 years. Those below 15 years get half the amount. These rations are linked
with attendance of the worker. If he is absent from work, rations and wages are deducted
proportionately. The other noncash remuneration include housing, as mentioned earlier, a certain
amountofwoodforfuel,medicalfacilities,sanitationanddrinkingwater.Ifanyoftheseareviolated
it would amount to reduction in wages. The discussion in the previous section on living conditions
showsthattherearewagereductionsallthetime.

Wages for tea plantation labour is expected to be fixed on the basis of a standard formula for
minimum wages that was accepted by all in the Fifteenth Indian Labour Conference (ILC) held in
1957. The Conference decided that a needbased minimum wage (a wage based on the minimum
needsofthepersonintermsoffood,clothingandshelter)shouldbebasedontheminimumneedsof
three units of consumption (two adults and two children). The Conference advised the union
governmenttoappointtripartitewagecommitteeineachindustry.Thegovernmentappointedcentral
wageboardsin22industries(Tulpule1968:M55).Thewageboardfortheteaplantationindustrywas
appointedin1960,threeandahalfyearsaftertheILC'sdecision.Theaveragetimetakenbyawage
board,forcompletingitsworkwasthreeyears,eightmonthsandninedays(Loomba1973:1).The
CentralWageBoardforTeaPlantationIndustrytookthelongesttimetocometoitsdecisions,namely,
fiveyearsandsixmonths.Itsrecommendationsweresubmittedon1April1966(ibid).

Theemployersstronglyopposedthebasisforwagefixingasthreeunitsofconsumption.Theyargued
that since employment in plantations was family based (i.e. men, women and children of the same
family were engaged as workers) three units would mean a much higher wage compared to the
minimumneeds.Theysuggestedthat1.5unitsshouldbethebasis.Thiswasopposedbybothlabour
representatives and government and the report even noted that "the family system of employment
cannotbeconsideredasuniqueintheteaplantationindustryandevenifithadbeensoitisamatter
ofconsiderationwhetheritwasjustifiedforemployerstoclaimbenefitofitbywayoflowwagesfor
malewageearners"(GovernmentofIndia1966:68).

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The employers obstinately stuck to their stand and the Board agreed to their demand. On the same
pageoftheabovequote,thereportnotedthatit"wasnotinapositiontorecommendwagesinkeeping
withthepresentcostoflivingandintermsoftheneedbasedwageformulaofthe15thIndianLabour
Conference. That the board has taken an extremely practical view and did not ignore the family
systemofemploymentinteaplantationsisalsoapparentfrom'theboard'srecommendations"(Ibid).
AtthetimethereportwassubmittedcashwagesoftheteaplantationworkersintheDooarsstoodat
Rs1.98formen,Rs1.84forwomenandRs1.07forchildren.TheBoardrecommendedwagesfor
men,women,andchildrenbeincreasedby13paise,10paiseand7paiserespectivelyfrom1January
1966,andafurtherincreaseof2paiseformenandwomenand1paiseforchildrenfrom1April1966.
Thedifferencebetweenthewagesofmaleandfemaleworkersincreasedfrom14paiseto17paise.
Hencedespitetherecommendationstheteaplantationindustrywastheonetoviolateallguidelinesof
theILCandhadrecommendedthelowestincreaseinwages.

In the subsequent years cash wages increased in driblets. The employers also deprived workers of
their wages in kind as they were not provided their rations on time, wood for fuel is no longer
distributed and no substitute is provided. The other inputs such as housing, sanitation and drinking
water are also not provided. Workers are thus in a very weak position while bargaining with the
employerseventhoughtheyareunionized.
Wecouldobserveasimilarsituationin2005whennegotiationsforwagerevisionswereinitiatedby
thestategovernmentandthetradeunions.Suchnegotiationsareexpectedtotakeplaceeverythree
yearsaswageagreementsarevalidforthreeyears.Thewagerevisionisdecidedthroughatripartite
meetingofthestategovernment'sLabourDepartment,thecoordinationcommitteeofthetradeunions
and the committee of the employers' associations. The daily wages of adult workers before the
negotiationsbeganwasRs.45.90paise5.Thetradeunionshadinitiallydemandedaminimumdaily
wageofRs.88.Thiswasbasedoncalculationsfortheneedbasedminimumwageaslaiddownbythe
15thIndianLabourConferencefor1.5unitsofconsumption.

Negotiations failed and the workers went on strike on 5 July 2005. This strike covered all 300,000
workersofthisindustryinthestate.Thestrikelastedtill25Julyandwasthelongestindustrywide
strike in the tea industry. However, despite all pressures the employers agreed to increase the daily
wagesbyRs.2.50duringthefirsttwoyearsandRs.3inthethirdyear.Duringthenegotiations,while
workers asked for a hike of Rs. 42.10, the employers' associations (the main ones are Indian Tea
AssociationandTeaPlanters'AssociationofIndia)generouslyofferedRs.1astheyclaimedthatthe
industrywasinashamblesandtherewasno
question of a wage increase. In fact they maintained that the present labour costs were already too
highandanyincreaseinwageswithoutincreaseinproductivitywouldcausefurtherlosses.Thefinal
wageagreementalsobroughtinaclauserelatingtoproductivity.Teaworkersengagedinpluckingof
tealeavesaregivenanincentivewage(traditionallycalled'extraleafpice')forpluckingmorethanthe
quotafixedbytheplantation(thisisknownasthika).Henceifthequotais25kg.,theworkerispaid
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extraforeverykg.pluckedabovethethika.Thisincreasesthedailywagesassometimesduringthe
peak season (JulyAugust) workers pluck nearly double the thika. Women workers are largely
engagedinpluckingandthisextraearninggoestothem.Theextraincomeismainlyduringthetwo
monthswhenthemonsoonisatitsheight.Theseasoncanbestretchedatthemosttothreemonths.At
othertimes(FebruarytoAprilMayandOctobertillDecember)thepluckingratefallsasthereareless
leaves.Usuallyplantationslowerthethikaduringthesemonths.InfactinthemonthsofOctoberand
Novemberthequotacanbereducedto15kg.

Thenewwageagreementhasaproductivityclauserelatingtothika.Underthisagreementthikawill
be24kg.forallplantations.ExtraleafpicewillbepaidattherateofRs.1.50onlyafteraworker
plucks30kg.ofleaves.Inotherwordstheworkerwillnotgetanyextrapaymentforpluckingupto6
kg.abovethethika.
Theincreaseinwagesisjustapittanceascomparedtotheearlierwageagreement.Inthelastwage
agreementworkersweregivenwageincreaseofRs.3.50peryearforthreeyears.Henceattheendof
threeyears(2003)thetotalincrementwasRs.10.50.Underthepresentwageagreementworkersgot
anincreaseofRs.8attheendofthreeyears.Besides,thoughtheearlieragreementendedin2003the
workersgotbackwagesforonlythreemonths(insteadof24months).
Theemployerscouldgetawaywithsuchameagrewageincreaseandontheabovementionedterms
onlybecauseofthepressuretheyappliedonworkersofreducingcasuallabourinthefuture.Hence
westillfindthatdespitethesituationhavingchangedconsiderablyinthepostindependenceperiod
plantationlabourremainvulnerablebecauseofthebackwardnessoftheregionandlackofanyother
employmentopportunities.

Theabovefactorshavecollectivelyledtothemarginalisationoftribalworkersintheregion.Besides
these,theethnicfactorhasalsoplayedarole.Themainproblemofthesepeopleisrootedinthefact
thattheyweremigrantstotheareaandwereaccordedlowsocialstatus.Hencethoughtheyhavebeen
responsible for building up the wealth of the state through their labour in the tea industry the have
beenkeptoutofthemainstream.Thiscanbeseenfromthefactthatthoughthesecommunitiesare
numerically large in the region they have never been politically effective. This large section of the
populationhasbeenkeptinisolationandtheycanhardlyarticulatetheirinterestsontheirown.Non
worker, nontribal trade union leaders (mainly belonging to the dominant Bengali community)
continuetoleadthetradeunionsandtakedecisionsonbehalfofthetribalworkers.Isolationandlack
ofemploymentopportunitiesintheareahasmadethesepeopledependentontheplantationsystemor
onsubsistenceagricultureinthevicinityfortheirsubsistence.

Conclusion

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Wehavetriedtoexplaininthispaperhowdespitebeingapartoftheformalsectorandhavingahigh
degree of unionisation tea plantation workers in the DooarsTerai region of West Bengal are not
totally free as in other industries. The result of this situation is that plantations remain as enclaves.
Theworkersarevulnerableandcanbeexploitedbytheplantationcompanies.Theycanbemadeto
workforlowwagesandunderexploitativeconditions.
Theearlyconditionsintheplantationswereinfactcreatedsothatlabourremainedcaptive.Thelater
developments too did not help the workers to be emancipated from the shackles of low paid work.
Thissituationcanbeimprovedtosomeextentifsomemeasuresaretaken.Firstly,thereisaneedto
create new avenues of employment for the family members/ dependants of plantation workers.
Education is an important means of achieving this and there is an urgent need for ensuring that
educationalfacilitiesareavailabletothem.Thelackofpropereducationofthechildrenofplantation
workers has affected their occupational mobility. These children, like their parents, are doomed to
workaslowpaidplantationworkers,moreoftenascasuallabour,withlittleornopossibilitiesoftheir
movingtobetter,orskilled,occupations.

Itisalsonecessarytoestablishcentresfortechnicaltrainingforthenewgenerationsothattheycan
takeupotheractivities.ItissignificantthattherearenotechnicalinstitutesliketheIndustrialTraining
Institutes in the plantation regions, though the younger generation need these the most. Therefore
development of educational facilities, right from the primary level onwards, is an important issue
whichhasnotbeentakenupseriouslyeitherbytheworkers'representatives,namely,thetradeunion
leaders,northestategovernment.Thisneedstobeaddressedifthefuturegenerationsaretoimprove
theirlot.
Secondly,greaterstresshastobelaidonthedevelopmentofareasoutsidetheplantations.Thiscould
bebycreatingfacilitiesforsmallandmediumindustrieswheretheseworkerscanbeemployed.Have
alternative sources of employment will increase the bargaining power of the workers. It will also
reduce the isolation of the plantations. Here too trade unions and other development agencies,
includingthestategovernments,canplayimportantrolesinpushingthisideathrough.

Thirdly,theculturaldevelopmentofplantationworkersneedstobeattendedto.Thelivingconditions
oftheworkerneedtobeimproved.MostoftheseproblemscanbetackledifthePlantationLabour
Actisimplementedearnestly.TheActprovidesforallinputsneededforupliftoftheworkers.These
include improvement of living conditions by standard housing, provision for drinking water,
sanitation, recreational facilities and education of the children. Had this Act been implemented,
plantationlabourwouldnotbeinthepresentpatheticconditions.
Finally,thetribalworkers,theirdependentsandthosedescendentswhoworkinlowpaidagricultural
workconstituteapopulationofatleast600,000inthedistrict.Thisisnotasmallnumberthatcanbe
neglectedbytheauthorities.Thestategovernmenthastoinitiatestepsfortheireconomicandsocial
uplift,ifatallitconsidersitselfasagovernmentofthepeople.

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References
Bose,Sanat1954,CapitalandLabourintheIndianTeaIndustry,Bombay:AllIndiaTradeUnionCongress.
Bhowmik,Sharit1981,ClassFormationinthePlantationSystem,Delhi:PeoplesPublishingHouse.
Bhowmik,Sharit1993,TeaIndustryinWestBengal,inSarathDavala(ed.).
Bhowmik,Sharit1996,TeaPlantationWorkersinWestBengal,inSharitBhowmik,V.Xaxa,andM.A.Kalam1996.
Bhowmik,Sharit,V.XaxaandA.Kalam1996,TeaPlantationLabourinIndia,NewDelhi:FriedrichEbertFoundation.
Breman,Jan1988,TamingtheCoolieBeast,Delhi:OxfordUniversityPress.
Chandra,Bipan1964,RiseandGrowthofEconomicNationalisminIndia,Delhi:PeoplesPublishingHouse.
Dalton,E.T.1882,DescriptiveEthnologyofBengal,Calcutta:GovernmentPrintingPress.
Davala,Sarath(ed.),EmploymentandUnionisationinIndianIndustry,NewDelhi:FriedrichEbertFoundation,1993.
GovernmentofIndia1966,ReportoftheCentralWageBoardforTeaPlantationIndustry,Delhi:GovernmentPress.
GoWB(GovernmentofWestBengal)2005,LabourinWestBengal(sectiononPlantationLabourAct),Kolkata:Governmentof
WestBengal.
Graves,I.1959,PlantaionsintheWorldEconomy,inS.W.Mintz,I.Graveset.al.1959.
Mintz,S.W.,I.Graveset.al.1959,PlantationSystemsintheNewWorld,Washington:WorldBank
NationalCommissiononLabour1969,ReportoftheStudyGroupforPlantations(Tea),NewDelhi:GovernmentPress.
Griffiths,Percivial1967,HistoryoftheIndianTeaIndustry,London:WidenfeldandNicolson.
Grunning,J.F.1911,EastBengalandAssamDistrictGazeteers,Allhabad:PioneerPress.
Hill, Christopher 1983, Reformation to Industrial Revolution, Harmondsworth: Penguin. Hoffman, Rev. 1964, Encyclopedia
Mundarica(Reprint),Patna:BiharGovernmentPrintingPress.ILO(InternationalLabourOrganisation)1950,BasicProblemsof
Plantation Labour, Geneva: ILO. Tea Board 2002, Tea Statistics 20012002, Kolkata: Tea Board of India. ITA (Indian Tea
Association), Detailed Report of the General Committee for the year 1933, Calcutta: ITA, 1933. Loomba, Satish: 1973, Wages,
Strikes and Trade Union Unity, Delhi: All India Trade Union Congress. Sunder, D. H. E. 1895, Survey and Settlement of
Western Dooars in the District of Jalpaiguri 18891895, Calcutta: Bengal Secretariat Press Tinker, Hugh, A New System of
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WageBoards,EconomicandPoliticalWeekly,,ReviewofManagement,Vol.3

Endnotes:

1 The term tribal may sound offensive in countries like USA and Canada where terms such as indigenous people, first
nation etc. are used. The ILO too has recommended the term indigenous people. However in India tribal is not an offensive
term as it has the backing of the Constitution of India. Moreover in many places (such as tea plantations) tribes may not be
indigenous people as the have migrated to these areas a few generations ago. There are autochthonous tribes in these areas that
couldberegardedasindigenous.AccordingtotheConstitutionofIndiathetermtribereferstogroupsofpeoplehavingspecific
characteristics. These are recorded in the schedule of the Constitution and are referred as Scheduled Tribes. The people are
accorded special status and the government has to take positive steps for their social, economic and educational development.
Theyalsogetotherformsofprotectionsuchaspreventionoflandalienation.Thebulkofthetribalpopulationisinthestatesof
CentralorEasternIndia.Theseinclude,Bihar.MadhyaPradesh,Chatisgarh,Jharkhand,Orissaetc.
2Infactthisistheonlyindustryinthecountrywhichofficiallyallowsemploymentofchildlabourbecausethefamilywastaken
as the unit of employment during colonial times. Hence, the whole family, men, women and children, worked on wages
determinedbytheplanters.Evenafterthecountrywasindependent(1947)thiswasaccepted.ThePlantationLabourAct,passed
in1951,recognisesfourcategoriesofworkersnamelymalesandfemales(thoseabove18years),adolescence(thosebetween15
and 18 years) and children (those below 15 years). The act is still in effect and the Tea Board of India (a body set up by the
government) mentions these four categories of labour in its annual report called Tea Statistics. After 1991 however, when
internationalteabuyersquestionedtheuseofchildlabourtheBoard,duetopressurefromtheemployers,changedthecategories
ofchildrenandadolescenttononadult.
3 The ILC is a tripartite body comprising representatives of labour management and government. Its unanimous decisions are
bindingforall.Itisheldeveryyear.
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4 The Supreme Court of India appointed a commission in 2001 to look into the conditions of tea plantation workers in the
country.Thiscommissionwasformedbecauseofawritpetitionfiledbysomehumanrightsorganizations.Itsubmittedperiodic
reportstill2008,whenitwaswoundup.ThedeathsoccurredinallteagrowingregionsbutthelargerproportionwasinDooars.
5InMay2010,IndianRupees43equalledoneUSDollar.In2005theconversionratewasRs.47to$1.Theplantationworkers
getapproximately$1.5adayincashatpresent(2010)underthe2005wageagreement.

(ThearticlehasbeenreproducedfromRace/Ethnicity,4(2),Indiana,2011

Posted24thJuly2016byAnanyoMukherjee
Labels:Dooars,SharitBhowmik,Teaplantation,teaworker

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