ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Living Conditions of Tea Plantation Workers

The strike by women workers in the tea plantations of Kerala brings to fore the miserable living conditions of the workers in this sector across the country. With more than a million permanent workers, the tea plantation industry is the largest in the formal private sector in the country. Yet wages of these workers are the lowest in the formal sector and their living conditions are appalling. Though there are laws that govern the living conditions of workers, these are violated and the state seems indifferent.

The recent strike by plantation workers in Kerala was the first of its kind in many ways. The strike was pre-empted by a spontaneous movement of women workers who struck work on their own. They did not allow the male workers or the existing trade unions to interfere. Though the women demanded an increase in daily wages to Rs 500, their main demand was to improve the living conditions of the labour lines in the plantations. This movement was started by women workers of Kanan Devan Tea Plantations, which is a part of Tata Global Beverages (for a detailed account, see in this issue “Munnar: Through the Lens of Political Ecology).” What is especially interesting is that a majority of the shareholders of this plantation company are workers. The company was owned by Tata Tea. It decided to make their workers the owners. Yet it is surprising that the “worker–owners” should strike against the holding company. We will come to this later.

Question of Wages

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