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Tea workers finally get their day in court

Posted to the IUF website 11-Mar-2008

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After almost two years of waiting, thousands of tea workers who have been robbed and abandoned by their employers are to get their case heard in India's supreme court. On March 7, senior advocate Colin Gonsalves acting on behalf of IUF and several affiliated unions told the Supreme Court that garden owners not interested in running their gardens anymore, had simply pretended and colluded with the state governments to benefit from the Rs 4,000-crore (USD 4 million) monetary package that was rolled out by the Central Government supposedly to revive the industry. He added that as a result of the non-payment of earned wages, provident fund and statutory dues such as gratuity, closure and retrenchment compensation, a situation of starvation, destitution and despair had spread in the tea gardens of the country.

The initial hearing went well with the Court noting that as the case involved employers, it needed to consider whether or not they too should be respondents (at present the state and central governments are respondents).

"This is an important development in the case, because the employers and plantation owners have been the chief culprits for the disaster which has affected tea workers. Their inclusion in the case would greatly raise the chances for securing justice for tea workers and reclaiming their rights", commented IUF Asia/Pacific regional secretary, Ma Wei Pin.

The public interest litigation case was lodged with the Supreme Court in April 2006 by the IUF and several affiliated unions. It calls for prosecution of the rogue employers who have stolen workers' wages and provident funds and petitions the Government to provide both emergency assistance and more long term stability by giving workers 5 acres of land to grow food.

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