2 May 2018

Rights Denied In The Name Of Development: The ‘World Bank Approach’ In Assam Tea Gardens

On March 19, 2017, a tea worker died in the Hattigor plantation in Assam. Two days before that, the 40-year-old worker had collapsed and injured his neck and head while carrying pesticide cans on his bicycle. He had tuberculosis, but despite having knowledge of it, the authorities assigned him the task of spraying pesticides. The plantation hospital lacked adequate facilities to treat him and he was referred to an external hospital.

Another incident that took place on December 14, 2017, involves the baby of a tea worker in the Majuli plantation. The worker had requested the management to arrange a vehicle to conduct an ultrasound scan in the 8th month of her pregnancy. The request was turned down by a scathing remark, “Why are you in a hurry to see your baby?” When labour pain started, she was taken to plantation hospital where the nurses complained of some unidentified problem in delivering the baby. On her way to an external hospital, the delivery took place in the vehicle and the baby was delivered dead. The cause of death was later ascertained to be cardio-respiratory arrest.

These disheartening stories are from World Bank-owned tea gardens in Assam. The two objectives of World Bank are to end extreme poverty, and to promote shared prosperity. True as always, it is actions which speak louder than words. The raw realities from World Bank’s tea gardens exemplify this hypocrisy – rather than ending poverty, it has been exacerbated for tea workers, and far from sharing prosperity, it has only swelled the pockets of tea managers.

The tea workers have only stories of broken promises to tell; broken promises only add to the woe of ‘broken backs’, as they are subjected to rampant human rights violation by their employers. Torture and oppression are not a new thing for this population. In fact, it has a long legacy from the time of Colonialism.

The tea gardens under scanner are those of the Amalgamated Plantations Private Limited (APPL) which is the second largest producer and supplier of tea in India, with 25 plantations spread across the states of Assam and West Bengal and employing around 30,000 workers. APPL is owned by Tata Global Beverages, Tata Investment Corporation, tea workers, and the International Finance Corporation( IFC, private sector side of the World Bank Group).

A new submission to the World Bank’s accountability office by community-based civil society organizations, Promotion and Advancement of Justice, Harmony and Rights of Adivasis (PAJHRA) and People’s Action for Development (PAD), with the assistance of US-based human rights advocacy group Accountability Counsel, underlines the continuing neglect of workers’ rights by the international body…

Read the full article here.

Read more about Accountability Counsel’s case in Assam, India here.