• Petitioned Mr. Tarun Gogoi

This petition was delivered to:

The Chief Minister of Assam
Mr. Tarun Gogoi
The Union Labour and Employment Minister, Government of India
Mr. Mallikarjun Kharge
The Chief Secretary of Assam
The Chief Secretary of Assam
The Prime Minister of India
Dr. Manmohan Singh

Urge India to save its people from hunger deaths

    1. Petition by

      Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC)

Dear friends,

Very shockingly, the enforced conditions of starvation and famine and resultant tragedy of hunger deaths of the tea workers of Assam still persists with its all menacing ugliness. Labourers of tea estates in this North East Indian state known worldwide for tea production are dying one after another due to malnutrition and lack of proper health care. So far 15 workers of a particular tea garden in South Assam died and several others are counting their days, according to the information available with the Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC).

The BHRPC conducted a fact-finding study during the last days of January 2012 in the Bhuvan valley tea garden after receiving reports of hunger deaths and released a fact-finding report on 1 February revealing information about deaths of 10 residents of the estate allegedly caused by starvation, malnutrition and lack of proper health care. After that deaths of four more persons were reported.

The latest unfortunate death was of Lakhi Prasad Dushad, a permanent worker of the estate and a resident of North bank division who died on 3 May 2012. He was only 38 years old. He left behind him his wife Imti Dushad (aged about 30), his sons Kishan Dushad (15), Eleven Dushad (13), Sujit Dushad (11), Hitesh Dushad (8) and 5 year old daughter Sweetie Dushad. Their survival is uncertain and a matter of grave concern.

It all started in this tea estate, owned by a private company based in Kolkata (West Bengal), when the owners closed down the estate on 8 October 2011 and abandoned the labourers, about 500 of whom were permanent and another 1000 casual workers, in response to their demands for payment of outstanding dues of wages, increase in the wages which was about Rs. 41,00 for casual workers and Rs. 55.00 (less than 1 US dollar) for permanent workers and far below the statutory minimum wages and for payment of other withheld benefits. The illegal closure of the estate resulted in loss of means of livelihood of the workers that pushed them into the condition of starvation and famine leading to the deaths and death-like condition of living. The rights of plantation workers to fair wage, bonus, provident fund, housing and basic medical facilities in accordance with the Plantation Labour Act, 1951 have not been enforced. In the course of closure, the government also failed to make any intervention to guarantee their fundamental rights to live with dignity. It is further found that basic medical care and food distribution for the poor under the government schemes including the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) did not properly reach even those workers who lost their livelihoods and that it was one of the causes that led to the deaths.

 Even after deaths of so many people the central government of India and the state government of Assam have not yet taken any effective actions for amelioration of the situation except some inquiries designed to serve as a cover-up, re-opening of the garden and forcing the labourers to join work without addressing their legitimate demands. Therefore, workers in the garden are still dying.

In view of the above and the commitment of India to the protection of human rights of every citizen and prevention of starvation deaths, the BHRPC urges that:

 

A. The authorities should provide urgent relief to the tea workers in terms of food supply and medical treatment to prevent further deaths and deterioration of health conditions of sick workers and their dependents.

B. The authorities should conduct a prompt, impartial and objective inquiry into the situation of the garden to fix responsibility for the deaths and the conditions that led to this situation including corruption in implementation of government welfare schemes and non-adherence to the provisions of the Plantation Labour Act, 1951 and other laws applicable in the estate management by an independent commission of inquiry headed by a sitting or retired judge of a high court or the supreme court and comprising of, among others, medical experts, nutrition experts, labour rights and human rights experts.

C. The officials or other persons who would be found negligent and derelict in their legal duties and responsibilities that directly contributed to the developing of the situation that led to the deaths should be prosecuted according to law.

D. The kin and the dependent of the deceased person should be provided with adequate reparation so far money can provide.

E. The authorities should ensure that all outstanding dues of the labourers are paid immediately and the wages of all tea labourers ofAssammade equal for the time being and that the tea gardens are run according to the laws providing all rights and benefits to the labourers under the laws.

In sum, we would also like to see assumption of some moral responsibility for these calamitious circumstances of death under conditions of hunger and malnutrition, instead of a mere legalistic standpoint. We expect that the Govt. at the state and the Centre should speak the truth and does not issue mere denials in a circumlocutory fashion. In this situation of famished deaths, “ought” is more important than “is”.

––––––––––––––––––––––

More information:

The sources of important information about the starvation deaths and the condition of the tea workers that can be found in the internet are given below:

 

BHRPC reports on the continuous tragedy in Bhuvan valley tea estate

 

1. Preliminary fact-finding report:

 

            Tea labourers dying of hunger in Assam

            (http://bhrpc.wordpress.com/2012/02/01/hungeralert1/)

 

2. Update-I:

 

            Situation of hunger deteriorates in Assam tea garden

            (http://bhrpc.wordpress.com/2012/02/23/situation-of-hunger-deteriorates-in-assam-tea-garden/)

 

3. Update-II:

 

             Two more people died in Assam tea garden

             (http://bhrpc.wordpress.com/2012/02/23/hungeralert3/)

 

4. Update-III:

 

            Assam government’s actions regarding starvation deaths are inadequate and misleading

            (http://bhrpc.wordpress.com/2012/03/03/assam-governments-actions-in-starvation-deaths-are-inadequate-and-misleading/)

 

 

5. Update-IV:

 

             Deaths continue unabated in Assam tea garden

            (http://bhrpc.wordpress.com/2012/03/10/hungeralert4/)

 

6. Update-V:

 

             Another death in starving tea garden of Assam

            (http://bhrpc.wordpress.com/2012/05/08/hunger-alert-5/)

 

 

Reports and actions by other organizations:

 

1. Hunger Alert issued by the Asian Human Rights Commission:

 

            INDIA: Assam government failed to ensure the right to life with dignity of tea plantation workers leading to ten deaths

            (http://www.humanrights.asia/news/hunger-alerts/AHRC-HAC-002-2012)

 

2. Update on the AHRC Hunger Alert:

 

            INDIA: Two more estate workers die from starvation while the government denies responsibility

            (http://www.humanrights.asia/news/hunger-alerts/AHRC-HAU-001-2012)

 

3. Preliminary report of the People’s Rights Forum and other oganisations:

 

            Other civil society groups corroborate hunger deaths in Assam tea garden

(http://bhrpc.wordpress.com/2012/04/27/bhuvan-valley-other-ngos/)

 

 

News reports and articles in the media (important ones only)

 

1. 19 January 2012:

 

            Inquiry into Cachar hunger deaths

            (http://www.telegraphindia.com/1120119/jsp/northeast/story_15021706.jsp) –News report in the Telegraph

 

2. 5 February 2012:

 

Swami Agnivesh writes to Assam CM on starvation deaths

(http://www.sentinelassam.com/cachar/story.php?sec=2&subsec=12&id=105944&dtP=2012-02-05&ppr=1) – News report in the Sentinel

 

3.  9 February 2012:

 

            Tea workers die of starvation

            (http://www.asianage.com/india/tea-workers-die-starvation-031) – News report in the Asian Age

 

            Rights group seeks prove into starvation deaths

            (http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-02-09/guwahati/31041559_1_starvation-deaths-rights-group-inquiry-panel) – News report in the Times of India

 

4. 21 February 2012:

 

Stay hungry: The story behind Assam tea

(http://ibnlive.in.com/blogs/arijitsen/148/63192/stay-hungry-the-story-behind-assam-tea.html) – News reports and talk show in CNN-IBN

 

5. 25 February 2012

 

Did they die of hunger? The Question Haunts Barak Valley

(http://tehelka.com/story_main51.asp?filename=Ne250212Hunger.asp) – Current Affairs report in the Tehelka Magazine

 

6. February 2012:

 

            Tea Industry in Barak Valley vis-à-vis Assam and The Plight of The Tea workers (http://swabhimanngo.blogspot.in/2012/02/tea-industry-in-barak-valley-vis-vis.html) –Blog Article in Swabhiman

 

7. 5 March 2012:

 

            Team of doctors confirm malnutrition of tea workers

            (http://www.deccanherald.com/content/232180/team-doctors-confirm-malnutrition-tea.html) – News report in the Deccan Herald

 

8. 13 March 2012

 

Dispur rap on garden for deaths

– News report in the Telegraph

 

9. 1 April 2012:

 

Bhuban Valley TE labourers not getting loans from PF

(http://sevensisterspost.com/?p=1944) – News report in the Seven Sisters Post

 

10. 4 April 2012:

 

            Assam government fails to protect right to life with dignity of tea workers

            (http://newsblaze.com/story/20120404060251zzzz.nb/topstory.html) – Op-ed article in the Newsblaze

 

11. 18 May 2012

 

            The dark side of India’s tea industry

            (http://www.france24.com/en/20120518-india-tea-estates-assam-malnutrition-workers-rights) – News report and analysis in the France 24 Television

 

––––––––––––––––––––––

Guwahati,Assam

20 May 2012

 

Fore any clarification or further information contact:

Waliullah Ahmed Laskar

Mobile: +91 9401942234

Email:wali.laskar@gmail.com

Recent signatures

    News

    1. NHRC move for starvation victims in Assam

      This grant of relief of Rs 17 lakh to the next of kin of 15 deceased is relieving and the BHRPC welcomes and appreciates it. However, in the absence of a thorough and independent inquiry many family whose bread winner or member died of hunger were left out of the consideration for such relief. As per the BHRPC estimate the number of the families thus left out is about another 15 or more.

      More over, in the absence of any effective nutritional and medial intervention the deaths will possibly continue unabated.

      Furthermore, for preventing repetition of such incidence it is necessary to enforce rights of the workers under the law and particularly to raise their wages to the level of statutory minimum wages.

      Finally, fixing responsibility is also very important to put in ace an effective deterrence.

      Sadly, the NHRC did not adequately address these aspects.

    2. NHRC grants relief to the kin of the deceased workers

      The National Human Rights Commission of India (NHRC) had granted some relief to the next of kin of some workers and others who died of malnutrition at its camp sitting in Guwahati on 28 May 2012. While considering complaints filed by the BHRPC and others the NHRC recommended the state government of Assam to pay a compensation of Rs. 2 lakh each to the kin of the 2 victims who were regular workers, according to the findings of its inquiry, and Rs. 1 lakh each to the kin of other 13 people, who were dependents of the workers as per the NHRC findings. The body also asked the government to file a compliance report within 3 months.

      However, the BHRPC raised concern over the possibility of being left out same number or more of the deceased workers and continuity of deaths in absence of any preventive measures and ameliorative actions on the part of the government and lack of a thorough and independent inquiry. The concerns were raised on 29 May at a meeting of the NHRC with local NGOs.

    3. Reached 250 signatures

    Supporters

    Reasons for signing

    • Vu Nguyen HOUSTON, TX
      • almost 2 years ago

      Please be mindful and supportive of Indian, UN and the global community to defend, strengthen and advance life meaningful values and social essentials such as democracy, liberty, human rights and dignity, environment rights, peace, harmony, inclusiveness, diversity, pluralism, prosperity, security, social accountability and responsibility, the common and greater good and well being of people, families, communities and societies to inspire and encourage meaningful and common good values and actions; and to empower inspirations and aspirations to advance the essence of being and humanity to build a better world and humanity.

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:
    • shireen farhat DHANBAD, IN
      • about 2 years ago

      tea is going to be our national drink...most importantly it is death of humanity...i want to stop this hunger death

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:
    • madhumita nag KOIKATA, INDIA
      • about 2 years ago

      sincerely want justice for those unfortunate people

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:
    • Jagadish G Chandra BANGALORE, INDIA
      • about 2 years ago

      It is a matter of appalling shame for having to witness this human tragedy caused by the greed of the rich classes. As I sign this petition, the fountainhead of this capitalist country is visiting Assam to celebrate the rule of Congress Party, I am pretty sure that this would never find place in her schedule or even cursory glance to pay lip sympathy to the hungry, poor and dying tea workers of Assam.

      I sign this petition in protest against the capitalist rule i this country, with a wow to replace it with a Democratic Socialist System where labour is respected and given its due share in the wealth that it creates.- Jagadish G Chandra, New Socialist Alternative (CWI-India), http://socialism.in

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:
    • Shilpa Narayanan BANGALORE, INDIA
      • about 2 years ago

      Farmers of any kind must be protected

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:

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