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KOLKATA, June 24, 2015: The State tea industry expects to get some relief through the West Bengal Tea Plantation Employees’ Welfare Fund Bill 2015, which it saw as
a unique initiative, where the State is willing to partner the industry to promote workers welfare.
The Act envisages the setting up of an Rs.100-crore fund. This would be utilised in three ways. It could be used for providing interest subvention (a form of interest
subsidy), and/or matching grants to employers as soft loans which the tea gardens would have to invest in social welfare schemes.
A second component is provision of scholarship to the children of tea garden employees. The third critical component pertains to sick or closed gardens.
The West Bengal tea industry is not expecting the bill to make any significant dent to its cost structure on account of compliance to the
Plantation Labour Act (PLA), 1951, which requires garden owners to provide certain amenities to tea plantation workers. But they are happy
that “for the first time the State has offered to partner the industry in respect of the social welfare cost.”
The industry said that it would now await the modalities, which are expected to follow a gazette notification.
West Bengal is India’s second largest tea growing State, after Assam.Its three tea regions — Darjeeling, Terai and Doors — account for a
quarter of India’s 1,100-odd million kg tea crop.
There are some 283 registered tea estates, which employ 2.62 lakh workers. The total population in the garden is over 11.2 lakh.
The amenities that industry is required to provide include free housing, medical facilities, primary education, potable water, sanitation and
creche, besides concessional electricity, foodgrains, fire-wood,footwear and the like. Source: thehindu.com