Large scale worker’s absenteeism is putting tea plantations into crisis
Increasing absenteeism among workers is surfacing as a major problem in labour intensive tea industry. Tea industry top brasses find it as indirect outcome of few Government schemes like 100 days work.
“The problem has reached a difficult height with absenteeism of around 25% in pan country level. Negotiating this has become too difficult,” said P K Bhattacharya, Secretary General of Tea association of India. One of the major reasons behind this, as Bhattacharya indentifies, is national level social welfare scheme 100 days work under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREG Act).
As the planters explained, a tea worker receives a daily cash wage of Rs 150 and directly work output linked incentive. In addition, there are benefits like Bonus of around 20%, house repairing allowance of 5%, highly subsidized food grain, free quarter, education, health facility, water, shoe, umbrella etc. Everything put together the wage comes much above Rs 300 a day per worker.
As a common trend, many workers now prefer losing Rs 150 cash wage by remaining absent in garden works to get into social welfare schemes like ‘100 days work’ to earn Rs 170 a day. While his cash gain is Rs 20, his all other benefits continue at the cost of tea garden.
“Though as per rule a worker must work for 280 days in a year, in practice, we remain compelled to pay almost all benefits in full scale even if a worker remains present for even just 90 days. Ground level workers payment alone consists of 65% of our total production cost. Naturally, this absenteeism significantly increasing our production cost because of downfall of output,” said veteran planter P. K. Sharma.
“Ironically, we cannot say ‘no’ to this welfare scheme under MGNREG Act. Many planters proposed Government to run 100 days work scheme in tea belts in winter season which is the lean period for tea plantation. But season specific bracketing of the scheme is also not practically feasible.
By BOA Bureau