The Chai for every occasion for everyone but not for the tea plantation worker

  • The boy meets the girl – over a cup of chai
  • Delegates talk business – over a cup of chai
  • Enemies become friends – over a cup of chai
  • Important personal decisions are made – over a cup of chai
  • Two strangers become friends – over a cup of chai

Chai or the Tea is part of our social fabric. The day starts with the chai and sometimes ends with the chai. Of course different people prefer different flavors of chai. Ranging from the masala chai, ginger chai, assam chai, darjeeling chai, cardamom chai or simply the black tea – there is a wide variety of chai catering to every individual’s personal choice and taste.

It also is available everywhere from the street corner to the bus stops to the train stations to the coffee day’s to the five star hotels to the mid air flights to the cruise chips and depending on where you have it, the price of the tea varies.

But what doesn’t vary is how much money do the people producing these tea leaves i.e. the tea plantation workers. It’s as low as Rs 95 in Assam to Rs 216.53 in Kerala. As per the official government data

“The tea plantation workers are paid wages as per the negotiated agreement reached through a process of collective bargaining between the producer associations and workers unions. The current wages being paid (Rs./day) in the major four tea growing states as per the said agreements are as under: ” and part of the wages is paid in kind by food and grains (on paper)
  • Assam: 95
  • West Bengal: 95
  • Tamil Nadu: 209.27
  • Kerala: 216.53


picture credit: wikipedia

So how many plantation workers are there in the country?

The Tea Plantation workers constitute a major portion of the Plantation workforce in the country. The Tea Industry provides direct employment to approximately 11.22 lakhs workers. In addition, about 12.25 lakhs workers are engaged in Coffee, Rubber and Cardamom (small & large) Plantations.
The Plantation Labour Act, 1951 provides far regulation of the working conditions and welfare of workers in the Tea Plantations. The Tea Act, 1953 provides for management of various aspects of tea sector including management or control of tea undertakings or tea unfits. In addition to the two Acts, other industrial and social security legislations are also applicable to the Tea garden workers.
The act further mandates the tea estates to
  • provide basic welfare services and amenities e.g. housing, medical, primary education, water supply, sanitation etc. to the tea workers
  • subsidized food grains, fuelwood and electricity is provided to workers under separate tripartite agreement entered into between industry, workers unions and the State Government
  • the Tea Board provides additional support under Human Resource Development Scheme (HRD) for improving health and hygiene of workers, education of wards of workers and imparting training to improve skills of growers/ workers

A wage that’s amicably agreed between the producer and the plantation worker and the living conditions mandated by an act that was established in 1953 (with amendments in 2010), looks all good on paper. However, there have been reports and incidents of plantation workers dying out of starvation and due to malnutrition. But the government doesn’t think so.

During the Loksabha question hour in 2008, responding to a question on whether the government has received any data on the hunger deaths in tea plantations, the then minister responded “The Government is not aware of the deaths which have occurred in the tea gardens due to starvation” 

The same question was asked in July 2014 and got the same response. 

In the meanwhile, the tea exports have been on the decline, some tea plantations in the country have been shut down, big players in the tea industry have been pulling out, the prices for Indian tea in the global market have been declining – all indicating that while there is the Chai for everyone for every occasion for everyones needs, there is hardly anyone listening about the plantation workers basic needs.

To be continued …



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