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    Assam: Medical help eludes starving workers

    Silchar: The malnourished and starving workers of the tea garden of Silchar don't get the essential medical help as the area has a non-functional national rural health mission with no qualified doctors, electricity and water supply.Even with wages that are lower than the minimum wage, workers went back to the tea garden when it reopened on February 8. But in the four months when there was no work, 10 plantation workers died of hunger."State average is Rs 55, we are given Rs 50. Inedible ration, no medicines…provident fund is not given," said tea garden guard Bholanath Teli."The workers had plucked 30,000 kg of tea leaves. Management sent orders from Kolkata, collected 10,000 kg, sold it off and took the money," said Barak Cha Sramik Union Assistant General Secretary S Mishra.The rest was wasted. The malnourished and starving workers got no medical help. The garden hospital was non-functional and there were no qualified doctors under National Rural Health Mission."No electricity and no water in an NRHM hospital when so much funds come in from the Centre. To take workers money for provident fund and not deposit it to trust is a criminal offence," said Barak Cha Sramik Union Assistant General Secretary Dinanath Baroi.With no food, no certain job and now no provident fund money either, workers are in a desperate situation. There is not a soul in the tea garden with any clue about its future. A locked factory, chronic poverty and ten deaths later, the management, the government and the labour unions are talking of a settlement that most labourers are not aware of."Labourers have no way out. Whatever is fixed by local administration they have to accept," said former Editor of Jugashankha Shantanu Ghosh.As night closes in, the workers can only hope the mismanagement will change the next day.