National Situation

Wage Violation in NREGA in tea plantations of District Jalpaiguri, West Bengal

Wage Violation in NREGA in tea plantations of District Jalpaiguri, West Bengal

21 June, Delhi: Gross violations of NREGA have been reported from Kalchini Tea Garden located
in Kalchini GP (Kalchini Block) in Jalpaiguri District of West Bengal of the provisions. Under the
scheme for revival of closed tea garden, NREGA was extended to all workers in the closed gardens.
It was specified that the work under NREGA would specifically be works permissible under the act,
of community benefit and not directly accruable to the garden management. This would include
land development, drainage, irrigation channel, connectivity. Absolutely no plantations and
plucking would be allowed. The Kalchini Tea Garden has suffered a decade of closure and,
consequently, the workers have been rendered destitute longing for any and all kinds of work for
pay. It was thus brought under the NREGA by the gram panchayat.

From 13 December 2010 to 31 March 2011, all 2003 permanent workers of the Kalchini Tea
Garden were put to work under the MGNREGS within the confines of the garden, to construct
drainage systems. The BDO, Kalchini, visited the garden to oversee the progress of the work while
it was on, along with the Pradhan of the Kalchini Gram Panchayat indicating that it was a Panchayat
project.

i. Non-payment of NREGA wage: Workers at the various sites have been paid daily wages ranging
between Rs. 30 and 50 on an average. The rationale for payment of this provided by the gram
panchayat was that the base wage was being taken as Rs. 65, the then current wage of tea garden
workers, as the work was being done within a tea garden. Further, given that the workers engaged at
the site were tea garden workers, the gram panchayat was also making deductions for PF, electricity
payments, etc. This is in clear violation of Section 6(2) of the NREGA.

ii. Job Cards and Post Office Pass Books seized: The Pradhan and his office seized all the Job
Cards and Post Office Pass Books at the commencement of work. The Job Cards and the Pass
Books have not been returned yet to any worker, in spite of repeated requests by the workers.
iii. No muster roll at site: No muster rolls were at the sites and no details of projects were shown to
the workers in spite of repeated requests from the workers.

iv. Violence at Worksite: Ruffians from two ostensibly warring ethnic parties in the region also
joined hands to silence all opposition or questionings of this state of affairs. They collectively
threatened the workers who filed complaints with the panchayat with dire consequences.

We immediately demand that:


• an enquiry is initiated in the matter
• NREGA is implemented in the tea gardens of Jalpaiguri district as per the provisions of the Act;
• ensure that the rights of workers under NREGA are not violated;
• action is taken against the Jalpaiguri District Collector, garden management and other officers,
who failed in their responsibility to implement the NREGA as per its provisions and also to protect
workers from acts of criminal intimidation.

Vaskar Nandy, President
Paschim Banga Cha Bagan Sramik Karmachari Union