Posted by: Sujoy Das | September 9, 2010

Tea Estates In Assam: Bonus 2010

The Telegraph North East Editon

Jorhat, Sept. 8: The familiar clamour for bonus has gripped the tea gardens here with the advent of Durga Puja.

The Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha (ACMS), the oldest and largest tea labourers’ body in the state with its headquarters in Dibrugarh, has set the ball rolling with a letter to major planters’ associations, urging the industry to initiate the bonus payment process and pay the maximum rate of 20 per cent.

Over the past few years, payment of bonus to garden workers in Assam has gone smoothly with the industry looking up. In the early years of the decade, the bonus issue had reached boiling point, leading to police firing on agitating labourers in Tinsukia district in 2002.

In his letter to the industry a few days back, ACMS general secretary Dileshwar Tanti requested that the “quantum of bonus” be announced and paid three weeks ahead of Durga Puja at the latest. He asked the industry to furnish a copy of the balance-sheet and computation statement for the previous fiscal (2009-2010) to the ACMS central office in Dibrugarh.

Taking the “hopes and aspirations” of the workers into consideration, the letter also urged the industry to declare and pay the bonus to the workers at one go rather than in instalments. ACMS sources said most of the time the gardens do not comply with the request to submit the balance-sheets to the organisation, which leads to “outside forces” taking advantage of the same to fuel unrest among the workers.

Payment of bonus to industrial employees is mandatory under Payment of Bonus Act, 1965. As per the act, employees earning up to Rs 10,000 per month have to be paid bonus at a minimum rate of 8.33 per cent and maximum of 20 per cent on the basis of the previous fiscal’s earnings.

According to industry sources, the matter was expected to be sorted our amicably as the industry was on revival mode with tea prices climbing. Last year the big companies, including MNCs in the upper Assam districts of Tinsukia and Dibrugarh, paid bonus at the rate of 20 per cent while a majority of the gardens in the state paid bonus at over 15 per cent rate.

Anjan Kumar Bhuyan, the additional secretary of Assam Tea Planters’ Association (ATPA), one of the largest and oldest tea bodies in Assam, told The Telegraph that the ACMS request had been intimated to the member gardens.

Pallab Lochan Das, the general secretary of the influential Assam Tea Tribes Students’ Association (ATTSA), demanded that the industry pay 20 per cent bonus to the workers.

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