Not Short On Cash, Why Assam Tea Workers Still Don't Have Money For Food

by - 3:58 AM

SONITPUR, ASSAM: Three weeks after government's notes ban took effect, Assam's tea garden workers are at least getting paid. But they say it has not made much of a difference and they are still deprived of basic necessities. At the Belsiri tea estate, 150 km from Guwahati, the labourers, earlier paid in 100s and 500s were now being grouped together and paid in the new 2,000 rupee notes. "We got 2,000 rupees note and we were asked to divide among ourselves, but we could not. We went to market and tried to shop together since we could not get the change. The new currency is lying at home; it has no use for us, we have no food back home. If this continues, we will die" said Deepika Gowala, one of the tea labourers told NDTV. Assam has over four lakh tea garden workers who make at least Rs. 126 per day. Payments are made in cash depending on the number of days they have worked in a week. "If this continues for a month, there will be deaths in the tea garden. We like PM Modi and we have voted for BJP in Assam with the hope that Modi will do something good for us. Now we are suffering. At least they can give notes of smaller denomination," said another female worker Swapna Kishan. Managers at the tea estate, cash deprived till last week, say they banks gave them cash only in 2,000 rupee notes and they were forced to club salaries. Same is the case at several other tea gardens in Assam who received money only in 2,000 rupee notes from banks. The state government, as a solution, has mandated tea gardens to get all their labourers enrolled to Jan Dhan Accounts by December 5. "Assam government has decided to bring the entire government monetary transaction in the state to a cashless system in phases. Tea gardens will have to be brought under this system as well," Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal had said earlier this week. But the management says it will not provide any immediate relief to the workers. "We have been asked to open Jan Dhan accounts for workers. Still, they don't know how to use ATM cards and the bank branches are far off," said Bharat Rathore, Manager, Pabhoi Tea Estate in Assam's Biswanath district. Suresh Tanti, a young tea garden community leader said the neither employees nor the management was opposed to government's notes ban aimed at curbing black money. "We are not opposed to PM Modi's idea. But 90 per cent of the workers are illiterate and the banks are far off," he said. In 2001, India had 5.3 bank branches per 100,000 people in rural areas. Today that stands at only 7.8 branches, according to Reserve Bank of India data.
Via: #NDTV

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