Pramod Giri , HT, 12 July 2016, Siliguri: The state government will conduct an extensive survey to ascertain the exact cause of migration of tea workers and their families — a fact considered as one of the prime reasons of shut down of several tea gardens in the state.
Several tea gardens in the state are hit hard by deaths of workers caused by malnutrition. The tea directorate recently set up by the state government has been tasked with the job.
Sourav Chakraborty, the chairman of the directorate and the Trinamool MLA from Alipurduar, said, “The survey will cover all fields, including the migration of workers and their families.”
During the survey, various teams will talk to the workers and their families and would find out the exact cause of the exodus of workers and the reasons behind their migration. Similarly, survey would also try to find out the socio-economic condition of the workers considered one of the causes of closure of tea gardens.
Chakraborty said that migration of people from tea gardens is not a new phenomenon as the tea garden workers and their families, including daughters and women, had been migrating to other states since the days of the Left Front rule.
The survey, which will be completed by the end of August, is the first of such initiative being carried out by the state government in the organised tea sector.
The decision to carry out the survey comes at a time when the state government and the Centre have failed to solve the crisis in closed and abandoned tea gardens, resulting in non-payments of wages and deprivation of other benefits to workers for years.
At present, 11 tea gardens are closed while workers in at least 17 others, including 14 owned by the Duncans and three-owned by Alchemist Group, are reeling under serious crisis.
Chakraborty said there are no data about the exact number of affected workers in closed tea gardens and their socio-economic conditions. Though the workers in closed tea gardens are dependent on the relief provided by the state government, the exact number of affected workers is not known, he said.
The survey will also look into whether the workers and their dependents have access to government health and drinking water facilities.
A section of tea workers feel the decision to carry out the survey is driven by political motive of the Trinamool Congress.
As the tea industry is an organised industry, the government has all the requisite data such as the number of workers, population in tea gardens, number of ration card holders and number of hospitals. The tea garden management regularly submits population, ration and other registers to the state government.
“Chakraborty can get all of them in a just click of the mouse”, said a trade union leader.
However, a large number of workers feel that the best part of the proposed survey would be the study on the issue of migration of workers and their dependents to other states.