This is in a series of pre-poll sops for Adivasis who are a major voting force in 45 of 126 Assembly seats
Ahead of Assembly polls, the Sarbananda Sonowal Cabinet in Assam has decided to increase the daily wage of tea plantation workers by ₹50.
The decision by the BJP-led coalition government came a week after Congress leader Rahul Gandhi promised to increase the wage of tea workers from the current ₹167 to ₹365 a day, although Assam Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma had promised a sustainable hike.
“Tea tribes” or Adivasis, originally from Central India, comprise about 20% of Assam’s 3.3 crore people and are a major voting force in 45 of the 126 Assembly seats. They are thus the flavour of every poll season in Assam, and the BJP government has provided a slew of sops, including cash transfer and specific schemes for women plantation workers.
“The Cabinet has taken a decision to increase the wage of tea workers from ₹167 to ₹217. A decision has also been taken to form a committee headed by Principal Secretary J.B. Ekka for equal wage of small tea garden workers,” Transport Minister and government spokesperson Chandra Mohan Patowary said on Saturday.
The wage structure largely applies to about 800 major tea estates in Assam.
The Congress-affiliated Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangh slammed the “meagre” hike. “The BJP had in its 2016 vision document promised to increase the wage to ₹ 351. The amount is nowhere near this figure, let alone implement a plan to provide increased wages with retrospective effect from 2018,” Rupesh Gowala, the organisation’s general secretary, said.
“This is sheer betrayal of the tea workers by the BJP after five years in power. We will increase the wage to ₹365 within 30 days of coming to power,” Congress MP Gaurav Gogoi said.
“Why should wages of tea workers in Assam be less than those in Kerala? Promises measure a party’s intentions and the BJP has none for the welfare of tea workers,” State Congress president Ripun Bora said.
Tea producers’ associations did not react immediately, but a planter said the wage hike would impact the financial health of tea estates in Assam, already among the highest-paying regions in the tea-growing world. “Sadly, no government or party factors in the non-cash component of the wage that includes housing, electricity, medical, rations and other benefits,” he said.