Tea garden workers are still victim of neglect, oppression and deprivation. They have been living in Bangladesh for the last 150 years. Still their standard of life did not improve at all. As the tea plant is trimmed not to exceed 26 inches, similarly their life was not allowed to improve.
Education, health care, living place- nothing is available in their lot. Though the country’s economy getting stronger gradually while their economy is sliding down day by day. After days’ hard labor from dawn to dusk they get only Taka 102.00 as wage. Being the foreigner in their own land they want land rights, electricity in stead of kerosene lamp and the assurance of their children’s education.
Of the country’s total 164 tea garden there are 45 gardens in Hobiganj where 3.5 lakh workers live. The problem of these garden laborers are like mountains. These victims of modern slavery have no living place.
After long movement though their wages were increased to Taka 102.00 on August 20 of 2017 but it was implemented after 20 months on August 27 of 2018. Each tea garden worker gets Taka 102.00 at the end of day’s work regularly and gets one kilogram of ‘Atta’ at the rate of Taka 15.00 only. That means they are getting Taka 117.00 per head but the temporary workers are to remain satisfied with Taka 102.00 per head. While any worker of government or private organization gets Taka 300.00 to Taka 500.00 daily.
The demand of the worker is to enhance the daily wage to Taka 200.00 per head. However their organization leaders’ demand is that our wage shall have to increase to Taka 400.00 per day in order to change our lot. Tea garden worker Sadhan Santal of Jagadishpur Tea estate under Madhabpur upazilla said that we have been passing our days under serious unfavorable conditions. It is impossible to run our family with the wage of Taka 102.00. One female worker Arati Kumri also expressed her feelings in the same vein of their troubled life.
Education limited within Primary level:
When the education is booming around the country with the progress of the country then the education in the garden area is limited up to primary level. About 90 percent children of the workers are to drop before attaining primary level for many reasons while the rest 10 percent can go up to seventh or eighth grade.
There are only 14 government primary schools in 45 tea gardens of Hobiganj while there are some schools of very low standard with poor maintenance set up by the garden owners. There is no environment of education in these schools with only one teacher in one school.
If any lucky boy of the worker can go to HSC level he is to walk 3 to 4 kilometers for college education. Local workers informed that they need education materials, books, dress but how and from where they would get those. So they are take loan to arrange these materials. Because of financial reason they can not prosecute their studies.
One worker Sudhangshu Prodhan informed that after a painstaking labor he has made his son passed SSC. But now he cannot proceed further for want of money.
Another worker Monmohon Santal told that where we struggling for our survival then the question of learning by our wards do not arise. Where and how they will do learning.
One Bhagirathi Koiry, a minor student of Dewandi garden of Chunarughat upazilla said that my mother works in a tea garden while my father is not a regular worker. I am to go to my school after walking three miles on foot. Had there been a school in our garden it would be very much good for me.
The tea garden workers are deprived of health care facilities:
Half of the total tea garden workers are female who are totally deprived of maternity facilities. Again they are to begin another struggle after they become mother. In absence of any day care center, they are to face serious hassle to take care of their babies. After birth neither the mother nor the baby gets slight nutritious food.
In most tea garden there is no health center while in the existing one there is not sufficient medicine or necessary equipments for treatment. There is no MBBS doctor. The only medicine available is paracitamol . If sought advice for many problems they are instructed to go to government hospital but they are not in a position to spend money for this purpose.
Though there are clear instructions to the garden owners under Tea Plantation Labor Ordinance of 1962 and Plantation Rules of 1977 to ensure health care for the workers there is nothing about its implementation.
One female worker Subudra Munda of Sumara tea garden of Madhabpur told that after day’s work she feels feverish and pain in her body but does not get any medicine. Another female worker Monohara Santal told where my own treatment remains uncared then how I can give treatment to my children.
Bangladesh Tea garden worker unit of Madhabpur unit organizing secretary Nripal Pal said that the garden workers are deprived of their basic needs for years together. They are deprived of their living place, food, health care and education. They get only Taka 102.00 per head daily while the workers of any field get Taka 300.00 to Taka 500.00 per head daily. We want the end of this disparity.
Tea labor union adviser and president of Indigenous forum and land rights committee leader Sawpan Santal said that the tea garden workers also participated in the great liberation war and they fought till the country became free from the enemies. But after liberation when all got back their rights on land but the tea garden workers did not get.