Hundreds of workers of Srimangal tea estates have been passing their days amid untold suffering for long as there is no basic rights for them to live.
Consequently, their children have also been forced to adopt the profession and to be the victim of the sorry consequence for the generations.
It was learnt that about 150 years ago, the then British government had developed many tea gardens in the Maulvibazar and Sylhet areas and they took the forefathers of the workers to there from different states of the undivided India as worker.
Later, the authorities had erected mini houses, called labour line, inside the gardens for their living. After the independence of Bangladesh, there was no change in their profession and suffering.
In course of time, the family members of the workers have increased, resulting a serious accommodation crisis. Finally the labour line has turned into a place of congested habitation and stinky environment due to unavailability of proper facilities as the tea garden owners do not permit them to build new house elsewhere.
Even the owners cut their names from accommodation list when any worker adopts other profession.
Dewanti Rajbangsi, a tea worker at Madhabpur National Tea Estate in Kamalganj upazila, said every worker’s weekly income is just Tk414 and they are struggling to ensure food for the family members. Sometimes they have to pass their days without lunch.
Another worker named Shibani Mahara echoed the voice of Rajbangsi, saying with sorrow that they get just Tk3 for one kg tea leaves while the figure for the owners is Tk250.
On the contrary, Samareshpoor Dankan Brothers’ Field staff Tanvir Hasan differed with the workers, telling that the tea workers enjoy many facilities, including free medical service, food rationing and education for their children.
“Their wages would be lifted as early as possible as the crisis prevailed centring it has recently disappeared,” Tanvir added.
Bangladesh Tea Workers’ Union General Secretary Ramvajan Koiri said: “We the tea workers have participated in the 1971 Liberation War as well as the anti-British and Pakistan movements, but we are still far away from the benefit of the country’s independence. Even we have no homestead despite living there for four generations at a stretch.”
“The state should be ashamed for the poor condition of us. Besides, we have no right to go away without permission from the tea garden owners,” the secretary continued.
Society for Environment and Human Development, which works for the tea workers’ right, Director Fhilip Gaine said: “The life of the workers is almost like in prison while their pay is very low and education facility too much poor as well. On the other hand, the state authorities have ensured special arrangement for the tea workers in Sri Lanka and India.”
The director went on that if the government can ensure due wages and proper education for the workers, they would be able to overcome the sorry state.