Tea Industry in India: Urgent Need for Sustainable Livelihood Conditions

Millions of people around the world habitually wake up to a fresh cup of tea. Imagine a morning without a cuppa!

To boost the production and consumption of the health beverage tea, it is important that the health of tea industry too should remain robust.

Tea is an export commodity that earns handsome revenues for the Indian government and has potential to generate more profits. The tea industry sustains livelihoods of over 10 million people in tea estates alone. However, workers continue to live in vulnerable situations with wages and income barely sufficient for subsistence living.

For increased production and consumption of tea, it is, therefore, imperative that workers in the tea industry have an assured employment, decent wages and livelihood security. They must also receive protection against market vagaries. Global competitiveness can be scaled up only if workers are protected. The small tea growers must get fair prices for their produce so that they have ability to face risks in terms of climate change and/or other emergencies.

This is possible only when the growers’ rights are affirmed by all stakeholders.

In a bid to reaffirm their rights and to maintain good health of Indian tea industry, the Centre for Education and Communication urges all the stakeholders to observe December 15 as International Tea Day.

Towards the observance of International Tea Day, Small Tea Growers in Northeast regions of India are organising events at several places with an appeal for fair price on their green leaves. Posters marking the appeal are being put up at public places.

The demands include:

  1. Remunerative price for green leaves from Bought Leaf Factories (BLFs)
  2. An appeal to factories to define and disclose quality percentage of leaves as prescribed by Tea Board of India(TBI)
  3. Appeal to the Government to provide crop insurance by rolling out the pending Price Stabilization Fund Scheme (PSFS)

In Jalpaiguri, representatives of all Primary Producing Societies (PPSs) are meeting at Moynaguri Dharamshala community hall to discuss the above concerns. The event will be marked by presence of Confederation of Indian Small Tea Association (CISTA) leadership, representative from BLFs, officials from TBI & Labour Department of West Bengal.

At Itakhuli Development Block of Tinsukia district, the event is being jointly organised by Bapuji, Tegera and Rangagora societies. Prerona and Kunhi Small Tea Growers in Margareitha are also holding the ITD event. The events will have presence of TBI officials along with Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO, United Nations) representatives. Posters in vernacular will be distributed and the Appeal will be discussed for possible solutions by Small Tea Growers

In Udalguri district, 13 Primary Producing Societies (PPSs) will hold discussions with the highest leadership of All Bodoland Small Tea Growers’ Association (ABSTGA) and TBI officials.

In Ramnagar, Golaghat, six societies will hold the discussion TBI officials & BLFs representatives.

At Borshila and Sonari,100 STGs will gather at Moran along with representatives of all active stakeholders.

At Bordumsa, 50 STGs with leadership of Bordumsa Small Tea Growers’Association and TBI officials and at Panchamnagar community hall of Unnokoti District 10 societies, will participate with other stakeholders, respectively.

In Mizoram, three societies will observe the ITD event in Baktwang where distribution of Biometric card will be an added event.

The United Trades Union Congress is also holding a session on at Dalgaon Tea Estate, Birpada, Jalpaiguri, West Bengal which will have participation of workers from 20-25 tea gardens.

India’s proposal to United Nations Panel to observe International Tea Day this year has received support from various countries.

The other few areas of concern for tea workers in plantation and small tea growers are: 

  • Protection of the land and housing rights of workers in closed tea gardens 
  • Increase in the wages of tea workers 
  • Provision of better sanitation and potable water in tea gardens
  • Remunerative price to small tea growers for green tea leaves 
  • Implementation of ‘price-sharing formula’ for small tea growers and effective functioning of ‘district monitoring committee’ for implementation of price-sharing formula

Observance of December 15 as International Tea Day can prove to be positively consequential for improvement and progress of the domestic and global tea industry.

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