Struggle of Tea Plantation Workers in North East India

, by  Asia Monitor Resource Centre (AMRC)

Malnutrition and Starvation Deaths

‘Due to malnutrition people started falling sick, in the last five years more than 200 people have died on this (Tea) estate alone.’

‘They do not have any rice, they are hungry and they have to work on empty stomach- so they fall ill and die. All of them died due to hunger and malnutrition. This is how my husband died, he worked without enough food and he died because the tea garden was shut down.’

These are the words of community leader Prahlad Sharma and former tea plantation worker Lakshmi Gosain. It appeared in a British Broadcast Corporation report in 20071, speaking from the tea estates of Ramjhora in the northern part of the Indian state of West Bengal in 2007. It seems like a tale from the medieval times. Though the inequalities of wealth in India are well-known and pictures of abject poverty are shown regularly, starvation deaths are something that is normally associated with Africa, not India, and India rather is often trying to portray a strong image of prosperity inspired by double digit GDP growth and increase in consumption. The conditions of workers in the tea estates of eastern India show the dark side of the ‘Indian growth’, considering the fact that Indian tea production is one of the largest in the world, second only to China. Why are then the workers dying of hunger? And who is benefiting from the multi-million dollar tea industry? To understand this one needs to dig


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