Plantation Workers Call for Strengthened Fight Against Neo-liberal Policies
and agricultural workers of the plantation industry.
10 th all india conference of plantation workers in Darjeeling
Kolkata: The All India Plantation Workers Federation (AIPWF) has called for a more resilient fight against the neo-liberal policies
being pursued at the behest of the Union Government. In their recently concluded 10th conference, the organisation has also called for enhanced social security, minimum wages, and health cards for the workers in the plantation industry.
It is the 50th year of AIPWF that first started through its first all-India conference in Darjeeling in 1972.
Concluding the 10th conference, CITU General Secretary Tapan Sen said that more than four million workers are related to the plantation sector, which includes tea, rubber and coffee plantations in the country. He also alleged that throughout the country, the government is attempting to take over the plantation land and said this has to be thwarted. He called for enhanced infrastructural facilities in the communities that live and work in the plantation areas, including better schools and educational infrastructures, better health services, and roads in the areas around the plantations of the country, among others.
The demand for land rights of the plantation area residents and their right to minimum wages was also raised by Sen in his speech.
The 10th conference of AIPWF took place in Darjeeling and was inaugurated by K Hemlata, President of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU). Leaders of major political parties of the hill, including HUMRO party, GNLF, and Chia Kaman Mazdoor Union and other parties, also took part in the open inaugural session of the conference.
From the conference, it has also been decided to hold a big public rally on April 5 in New Delhi to be attended by all stakeholders like small and medium farmers and agricultural workers related to the plantation industry. The conference also earmarked the attempt of the government and corporates to take over plantation lands as a dangerous trend and called for a full-fledged fight against it.
In the two-day long conference, about 143 delegates from across West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Assam, and Tripura took part. On the last day of the conference, after deliberations by the delegates for nearly 40 hours, AIPWF elected its office bearers. CK Unnikrishnan became the President of AIPWF, and Zia Ul Alam was elected as the Secretary of the organisation.
Later, talking to reporters, Zia ul Alam said that plantation workers play an important role in the country. Tea, rubber and coffee are the important pillars of the plantation industry, and about four million people, including working-class people, workers, staff officers, and managers, are associated with the industry. Indirectly, about two million people depend on the industry. Though the workers are toiling day in and day out, the profit is being taken away by the owners and the plantation workers are exploited to the core, he said.
Alam pointed out the grim condition of West Bengal's tea industry and said that the living conditions for the average tea workers are deteriorating day by day. This is a shameful thing for the state and the country. In tea gardens, basic amenities like safe drinking water and health services are absent. The government has been unable to force the minimum wages in the plantation sector of the country, he said, adding that discontent is brewing in the sector.
Alam also detailed and hailed the success that the plantation workers has got in Kerala and Tamil Nādu while the plantation workers of West Bengal and Assam are lagging far behind. He also blamed both the state governments of Assam and West Bengal and the central government for the present condition.
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