In an article from The Hindu, a national publication, by Sushanta Talukdar, failure to provide safe drinking water to garden laborers is being cited as a serious health issue according to the Health Minister. The complaint is being leveled against tea gardens in upper Assam’s Jorhat and Golaghat districts who had ignored demands to correct the problem which resulted in a diarrhea outbreak.
As if the working conditions could get any worse in Assam. It is reassuring that the government is taking some steps against the tea estates, and hopefully the measures will be effective. This kind of story highlights the problem with the plantation model that is collapsing in India because of there being cheaper labor in Africa and South America. Do you think that the working conditions there are better than Assam? It has only taken a little over 150 years for this model for tea production to fail, while tea production in China has continued for thousands of years. While in Dubai a couple of years ago, I asked one of the major Assam producers how they would answer the demand for better quality tea, from skilled tea workers. He told me that it was not possible without changing the plantation model and starting over completely. It seem that it will be inevitable over the next century as the world is forced to move towards sustainable business models. In the mean time it is hard to see people suffer and die over tea.