Circuit House, Kolkata. March 8, 2008

1. List of Attendees:

  1. Rajan Pradhan, AITUC
  2. Chitta Dey, Coordination Committee of Tea Plantation Workers, West Bengal
  3. Reena Kharka, Dooars Cha Bagan Workers Union
  4. Shambhu Chettri, Dooars Cha Bagan Workers Union
  5. S. Manickam, Hind Mazdoor Sabha
  6. P.A. Joseph, INTUC
  7. Alexia Beck, INPWF
  8. Nakul Sonar, NUPW/INPWF
  9. Ashok Ghosh, UTUC
  10. Angel Thapa, UTUC
  11. Kumari Kujur, UTUC
  12. J. John, CEC
  13. Pallavi Mansingh, CEC
  14. Rinju Rasaily, CEC

2. Key Issues in the Discussion

Com Chitta De chaired the meeting. Ashok Ghosh welcomed the delegates and introduced the agenda of this preparatory meeting: a) follow-up to the 3rd ITD held at Kumily, Kerala and b) preparations towards the ITD in 2008. Com. Ghosh also spoke about the relevance of the Tea Day, its inception in 2005 and its observance since then.

Speaking on the observance of the 3rd ITC in Kumli, P.A. Joseph said that the programme was organized with both financial and time constraints. He appreciated the support given by International Labour Organisation (ILO), and stated that M.N. Adiyantaya, member, ILO Advisory Board had assured him of maximum support for the ITD in 2008. On the occasion of International Women’s Day, he extended his solidarity with the women tea workers.

Com. Chitta De also extended his solidarity towards the women workers He said that at this juncture, rights are still due to women workers. Pointing to the dual role that women in tea industry play, he said that a woman has to complete her housework before reaching her place of work and if she fails to reach on time she would be thrown out of her work. He emphasized on the need to create awareness and consciousness among women workers.

Rajan Pradhan pointed out that the decision taken after the 3rd ITD meeting to form a committee that would take up the issues with the state, centre and management of the tea gardens is yet to materialise. To this Ashok Ghosh responded and said that the ITD has the scope to constitute such a committee and take up issues. Chitta De said that the ITD should be held in Siliguri.

J. John pointed out to four important things to be discussed and decided in the meeting: 1. How is the 4th ITD going to be organized? 2. What is the follow-up action of the decisions taken in year 2007? 3. Formation of ITD Committee 2008. 4. Should ITD 2008 should have the focus on women workers.

He mentioned that the year 2007 focused on closed and abandoned tea gardens and asked whether this year could there be a focus on women workers and their rights? He said that in spite of the importance of their work in the tea industry, rarely tea garden issues had been raised from the perspective of the rights of women tea garden workers. ITD 2008 gave the trade unions and workers in tea industry a tremendous opportunity to air the concerns of women workers in tea gardens.

Most of the participants expressed their solidarity to the women workers and stressed the need mainstream women workers, education them and to incorporate women in trade union leadership.

Rajan Pradhan pointed out that poverty and discrimination in education compels girl children to take up work. This also supplements their family income. He pointed out that the Jalpaiguri Zila Parishad has no provision for upliftment of the tea garden population in terms of education, medium of education, health and so on. This increases vulnerability of women, particularly girl children.

The women delegates too pointed out the need for gender mainstreaming in all aspects of development. They shared some of their own experiences in this platform.

Kumari Kujur and Reena Khakra shared some their experiences as women workers. They spoke on the dual role that women in tea plantation have to perform. They shared that women workers do not have any understanding about their rights. Further, they stressed on the need to educate and inform women. They seconded the theme for the ITD 2008 proposed by Com Ashok Ghosh “Empowerment of Women in the Tea Industry”.

Based on the decisions taken at the meeting, a press note was prepared for the Press Conference at Press Club, Kolkata at 3 p.m. Kumari Kujur along with the senior trade unions like Chitta De, P.A. Joseph and Ashok Ghosh spoke on this occasion. Separate interviews of trade union leaders and women delegates were taken by the media.

3. Key Decisions

  1. The theme for the year 2008 was unanimously agreed upon as “Empowerment of Women Workers in Tea Industry”.
  2. The ITD programme after discussing among the West Bengal delegates was decided to be held at Chalsa, North Bengal from 13-15 December 2008.
  3. A National Coordination Committee was formed with
    1. Chairman – P. A. Joseph
    2. Convenor- Smt. Kumari Kujur
    3. General Convenor – Ashok Ghosh
  4.  This National Committee would constitute of 15 members. The details to be taken up in the next meeting.
  5. Organising Committee to be formed and centralised at Dooars, North Bengal with Manohar Tirki, Minister for State PWD as Conveynor and Chitta De, Conveynor, Coordination Committee of Tea Plantation Workers, West Bengal as President
  6. Meetings and programmes to be organized at the state and unit level on women’s empowerment.
  7. P. A. Joseph, Ashok Ghosh and Kumari Kujur to address the press conference from 3-4 p. m at Press Club, Kolkata
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