by Akash Mirza
Last season, Bangladesh set a record for the second highest production in the 175-year history of tea production. The target for tea production in the just-concluded season was 6 crore 23 lakh kg. And 6 crore 20 lakh kg has been produced which is 96 lakh kg more than the target. Although the tea industry has improved, the lives of tea workers have not changed.
After working all day, the income of a tea worker is 102 Taka, there is no own ethnic identity, no opportunity for education, no sanitation. There is a lack of treatment. Even if you are educated, you have to do 102 taka a day or you have to lose a place to keep your head. There is no help even if there is disability while going to work. In order not to be vocal about their rights, the workers are kept intoxicated with the help of the owners. There are liquor stores in each tea garden as planned.
One such unfortunate group is the tea workers. During the British rule, they were brought to different places including Bangladesh by showing greed for a better life, but from the very beginning, only negligence and torture have been inflicted on their foreheads. They are like today’s modern slaves.
Menka Santal, a tea worker at Zulekha Tea Garden, said that even after so many years of independence, the fate of tea garden workers has not changed. Development has not touched their lives. They are not even getting the opportunity to enjoy basic rights. This tea garden community has yet to break the shackles of British feudalism and local babu-sahebs.
According to the Tea Workers Union, the tea population in the country is about 6 lakh. Of these, about 94,000 are registered workers and another 40,000 are irregular workers. The weekly salary of a tea worker is 614 tk. 3 kg 280 gms of rice or flour is given per week (the price of the product is lower than the market price).
British Ghatual, a tea worker at Deorachhara Tea Garden, said there are many families of 5-6 members where one person gets a job for tk. 102 and the rest depend on this money to make ends meet. You have to stay in a small broken house with your children and cattle. Although the garden authorities were supposed to repair the house, it did not happen year after year. They have no place of their own. If you don’t work in the garden, you will lose your place of residence.
Sujit Baraik, general secretary of the Sylhet Tea Community Student Youth Welfare Council, said that according to the 2016 agreement, a worker should be given a pension as an average of one and a half months’ salary for the total number of years he has worked. But it’s just a pen on paper. In old age, they have to starve to death due to starvation and without treatment. Although only a few gardens provide nominal medical care, most gardens do not.
Debashish Yadav, vice-president of the Tea Students’ Union, said, “Even in the midst of so much suffering, we suffer the most when a large section of society considers us’ Indians’. When our ancestors came to Bengal, India was not divided. They just came from one place to another. ”
“Everyone has their own ethnic identity, but tea workers don’t,” he said. “Even though we have our own language and culture, we haven’t been able to get any recognition yet.”
Why can’t they be protesters even after so much deprivation? – Dhana Baury, president of Manu Dhalai Valley of the Tea Workers Union, said, “We can’t end up talking about our hardships. The workers are being kept intoxicated by ensuring easy availability of liquor with the indirect cooperation of the employers so that they cannot unite by understanding their own good and bad”.
Vijay Pal, Founder President of a Social Welfare Organization, said that a tea worker is not allowed to stay in the garden if he does not work in the garden, while almost every garden has low quality liquor shops which are being given all kinds of opportunities by the garden owners. President of Bangladesh Tea Union, Sylhet Valley, said work was underway to improve the living standards of tea workers. Primary schools are being set up in every garden.
History of Tea Labor Day
In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, tea was not introduced anywhere else in the world except China. In 1854, the East India Company started tea cultivation in the Malinichhara tea garden in Sylhet on an experimental basis. At that time workers from different parts of India including Assam, Orissa, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh were shifted to this land to make tea gardens. It did not take long for them to understand the temptation that had been shown to them, even though they were tempted to say, “The tree will move, the rupee will move.”
There is no accounting for how many workers lost their lives prematurely after falling into the clutches of wild animals while clearing huge hills and cultivating tea. Besides, there was the oppression of the British. In protest of their continued persecution, the then tea workers leader Pandit Gangacharan Dixit and Pandit Deosaran called for a ‘Mulluke Chal’ (return to motherland) movement. On May 20, 1921, about 30,000 tea workers from the Sylhet region reached the Meghna Steamer Ghat at Chandpur on foot from Sylhet.
When they tried to return to their homeland by ship, the British Gurkha soldiers indiscriminately shot and killed the tea worker and dumped his body in the Meghna River. Those who fled also had to be brutally tortured for the crime of protesting. They did not get the right to land. Since then, May 20 has been observed as Tea Workers’ Day every year.
Sunil Biswas, a drama personality in the tea garden, said, “We are still neglecting the recognition of the celebration of Tea Workers’ Day by the state.”
For the overall liberation of all other working classes, including tea workers There is no alternative for establishing a new society and an independent socialist society by abolishing the existing capitalist social system to protect the health of all people, including the working class, eliminating unemployment, poverty, social unrest. To end the plunder of capitalism, the state system, imperialism, we have to build a society where there is no human dominance over human beings. People will not exploit people. They will manage themselves. Non-state, non-capitalist socialist self-managed social system. All production systems will be owned by people of the society, including mills, factories and agricultural farms. There will be no volatility of personal ownership. The word employment will disappear forever. People will be completely free.
BASF- working with and for preparing people for changing existing society by organizing, educating and providing training. The society is working to establish a system where no unjust working period, no hierarchy, will be able to manage the entire production system, under mutual Aid.