Nazdeek and Accountability Council demand accountability for Assam tea workers
AccountabiliTea is a website created by Nazdeek, Accountability Counsel, Promotion and Advancement of Justice, Harmony and Rights of Adivasis (PAJHRA) and People’s Action for Development (PAD) documenting the exploitation of tea plantation workers in Assam, India and the failure of the World Bank and Tata Global Beverages to uphold the fundamental rights of workers and their families.
The resources on the website focus on the over 155,000 people living and working on the 25 tea plantations of Amalgamated Plantations Private Limited (APPL), the second largest tea producer in Assam. In 2009, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) of the World Bank Group and Tata Global Beverages invested in APPL each taking a large stake in the company for a project aimed to preserve over 30,000 jobs and to implement an employee-share-ownership program, offering workers the opportunity to make decisions in the company and share in its profits.
In 2013, the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO), the accountability watchdog of the World Bank, began an investigation into this IFC project and the resulting report released by the CAO and timeline of their investigation is available on AccountabilitTea. CAO has made a number of noncompliance findings in relation to IFC’s handling of this investment and found repeated failures by the World Bank and APPL to fulfil their obligations. It finds that living and working conditions continue to be sub-standard on APPL plantations, that wages on the plantations do not protect the health of workers, and that workers were not given proper information about the risks of share ownership and their rights as shareholders.
The report validates the concerns of NGOs and workers over the low wages and poor working conditions on APPL plantations. APPL also continues to violate national laws, like the Indian Plantations Labor Act 1951 and the Minimum Wages Act 1948. The minimum wage standards in India require for 330 Rupies per day for tea garden workers, while currently APPL workers receive 126 Rupees per day.
The majority of Assam tea workers belong to the indigenous Adivasi community. They were forcibly brought to the Assam region from central India over 150 years ago under British colonial rule and now depend on the plantations for their livelihoods. As tea workers rely on the tea industry for all aspects of their lives, AccountabiliTea asserts that boycotting Assam tea will not provide the needed support for workers and provides other calls to actions to demand accountability.