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Assam 2014: Another year of empty promises to tea plantation workers?

Mar 31, 2014 09:16 AM IST Politics Politics

Guwahati: In the state of Assam, political parties are flocking to get the votes of the 10 lakh tea plantation workers who, for years, have been crippled by low wages. It remains to be seen whether it will be another year of empty election promises or things will be different this time around.

It is the tilt of the scale that decides how much the tea plantation workers will be paid. They have to pick tea leaves weighing 24 kilogram a day. Anything less than that qualifies for zero payment. But during elections, they are wooed by all.

In the three phase election in Assam, voters will decide the fate of candidates in 14 Lok Sabha seats. As the election proceeds in different constituencies from Dibrugarh to Tezpur to Kokrajhar to Guwhatai, voters will hold on to varied expectations. One crucial vote will be that of the tea garden workers. Most of them work on criminally low wages and they seem trapped in empty election promises and votebank politics.

The tea plantation workers believe any change for them is unlikely. Over 10 lakh workers in 900 gardens seek a tea tribe status. Traditionally, they are a Congress vote bank. But during elections, all political parties walk the extra mile to get their votes.

The living condition in the labour quarters is one issue these workers want parties to address. "Before elections, party leaders come to ask for votes and after elections, they forget about us," said a tea plantation worker.

For now, all they can do is momentarily escape from their problems. Angry, and at the same time, conscious of their voting rights, the tea garden workers are almost sandwiched between tea garden management, unions and political parties.