Himanta Biswa Sarma revealed that the government would launch a scheme to reduce maternal mortality in the tea garden areas
The Assam government has firmed up plans to unveil a slew of schemes for the tea tribes employed in tea gardens across the state.
Speaking at a function in Jorhat, health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma revealed that the government would launch a scheme to reduce maternal mortality in the tea garden areas. He added that budgetary allocation has also been made for addressing malnutrition among pregnant women.
He informed that the government has earmarked Rs. 800 crore for improvement of roads in the tea gardens and from November a minimum corpus of Rs 1 crore would be spent in each garden for road improvement works.
There are more than 900 tea gardens in Assam which are mostly concentrated in the districts of Jorhat, Dibrugarh, Tinsukia and Sonitpur. Under the Plantation Labour Act 1951, each tea garden should have a health care centre with adequate facilities. Most tea gardens are remotely located and do not have proper connectivity to the nearest town areas.
Sarma said that the Government has already released Rs 100 crore for retired employees of the gardens under Assam Tea Corporation, which was in addition to the transfer of Rs. 2500 to every tea garden worker who has a bank account.
Assam tea is grown at elevations near sea level, giving it an earthy flavour, as opposed to the more floral aroma of highland like Darjeeling tea. The Assam tea industry accounts for more than 50 per cent of India’s total tea production. But the workers in the gardens have been cripped by wow wages, poor housing and lack of avenues for social mobility which have been a recurring theme since the inception of the plantation complex in the state in the early nineteenth century. The industry was developed by the British planters who imported labour from Bihar, Jharkhand and Orissa.
The Health Minister also informed that the State Government has decided to provide Rs. 25,000 to every youth from the community who would be interested to venture into entrepreneurship apart from a monthly scholarship to 500 girls pursuing certain courses.
Research conducted by Gadapani Sarma at Lohpohia Tea Estate in Jorhat revealed that most of the households were living below the poverty line. “As their parents are poor, the next generations also face the same problem of poverty,” the research said, adding that “Some other causes, like, low wages, lack of job opportunity and work culture of the people are highly responsible for their poverty.”
Demographically, the tea garden labour community of Assam represents around 20 per cent of the total population of the state accounting for more than 45 lakhs. About 17 per cent of workers in Assam are engaged in the tea industry and around 50 per cent of the total tea plantation workforce in Assam is women. Between 2005 and 2006, the state produced 476 million kgs of tea. In the last three decades, the state has increased tea production as well as tea cultivation substantially since there has been a vast increase in the number of small growers.
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