Facing an acute cash crunch, tea workers in North Bengal districts want the State Government to emulate the Assam model carried out by the Sarbananda Sonowal government recently. Located in far flung areas, underserved by the banking sector, tea industry pays wages fortnightly in cash. While payments were due in the second week, sudden restriction on cash withdrawals stopped companies from giving salaries.
To safeguard workers’ interest and avoid unrest, the Assam government asked plantations to transfer requisite money to its disaster management department, which under special arrangements with the RBI dispensed cash to plantation workers. As on Tuesday, salaries of major gardens have been paid.
Following the Assam model
Taking a cue from the Assam example, the Indian Tea Association requested intervention of West Bengal government on Saturday. West Bengal contributes nearly a quarter of the country’s tea output. Sixty per cent of the total comes from large estates having over 2.5 lakh people on pay-roll.
At a hurriedly called meeting in Siliguri, the State officials verbally promised to implement the plan. On Sunday, meetings were held at the district level and tea producers were asked to submit requisitions. While producers duly submitted the requisitions on Monday, the State government is yet to handover the bank details for money transfer.
‘We are eagerly waiting further instructions from the West Bengal government to execute the plan,’ a tea official told mediapersons on condition of anonymity.