Guwahati: The Assam government recently announced that it will provide 20% bonus to all tea garden workers across the state ahead of Durga Puja celebrations next month.
The decision was taken after chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal recently held a meeting with top state government officials and authorities from the Assam Tea Corporation (ATC) to discuss on the growing protests staged by tea garden workers across state demanding a bonus ahead of the festive season.
Significantly, tea workers’ associations functioning across the state, especially the Assam Tea Tribes Students’ Association (ATTSA), have been pressing for an increase of Durga Puja bonus for garden workers to 20% from the existing 8.33%, which is the minimum amount of bonus as stipulated under the Payment of Bonus Act, 1965.
However, the situation turned tense with massive protests being staged including blockades on National Highways by members of ATTSA after the Consultative Committee of Plantation Associations (CCPA) announced that it might not be able to give more than 8.33% bonus citing that tea prices in the present year have remained stagnant and the industry has been facing a huge loss with cost of production.
The CCPA is an umbrella organisation of tea producers representing Assam Branch Indian Tea Association (ABITA), Assam Tea Planters Association (ATPA), Tea Association of India (TAI), Bharatiya Cha Parishad and North Eastern Tea Association (NETA)
Reacting to the announcements made by CCPA, members of ATTSA expressed that the authorities should not compromise with the puja bonus as it is an emotional issue for the tea garden workers. They further warned that there might be a law and order situation in tea gardens across the state if the demand is not addressed properly.
This year, Durga Puja begins on October 4 and the tea companies are expected to give away the quantum of bonus to workers by the second week of September.