Over 400,000 workers on Indian tea plantations that supply the world’s largest tea companies have gone on strike over the government’s failure to implement a promised daily wage increase from £1.70 to £3.70 a day. The past week has seen around 250 tea estates across the Assam region close, with the partial closure of a further 20.
For years, the owners of the vast plantations in Assam have been accused of under-paying and exploiting workers. Campaigners have reported that workers have little access to clean water, work in unsanitary and dangerous conditions and have their fundamental human rights undermined.
In 2018, the Indian government had agreed to raise the daily wage from the current figure of 167 rupees to 350 rupees, but has failed to implement the decision. There are fears that, after consulting tea estate owners, the government will backtrack on its promise and move to significantly lessen the increase.
One worker, who has been a tea plucker for 16 years along with her husband, said it is becoming increasingly difficult to meet the family’s basic household expenses.
“The only way we manage is by not buying any clothes. When the children ask for a certain food item, we say no. We have to keep saying no all the time to everything they ask. I need this wage rise but I don’t know if it will happen,” she said.