Adivasi association calls the move inhumane, autocratic

The All Adivasi Students’ Association of Assam (AASAA) has slammed the government’s decision to extend the daily working hours in tea gardens from eight to 12 hours.

The inhumane, autocratic and draconian change was made on the flawed premise that making plantation workers toil more would fuel productivity, it said.

“Apart from undermining the rights of workers and dignity of human life, the decision mocks the struggles of students’ bodies and trade unions over the decades,” AASAA president Pradeep Nag told presspersons at Tangla in Udalguri district. The Sarbananda Sonowal government must withdraw the decision or face an agitation, he added.

The Adivasis, comprising more than 110 communities with origins in central India, are referred to as “tea tribes” in government documents although they have been demanding the elusive Scheduled Tribe status. Assam also has the “ex-tea tribe”, meaning Adivasis who are no longer associated with plantation work.

The two categories of Adivasis together comprise about 20% of Assam’s population and are a major electoral force across at least 35 of the 126 Assembly and four of 14 Lok Sabha constituencies.

The community was considered loyal to the Congress until a majority of them began switching allegiance to the BJP since the 2014 parliamentary polls.

Rival Adivasi organisations too have expressed dissatisfaction over the extended working hours. They resented that the stakeholders of the Adivasi society were not taken into confidence while arriving at the decision.

On May 8, Assam followed other BJP-ruled States in approving labour reforms in a bid to boost the economy hit by the COVID-19 lockdown.

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