Amendments to Plantation Labour Act, 1951 underway: Fernandes

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New Delhi, Sep 29 (UNI) The Centre has asked the state governments to extend the benefits of Centrally Sponsored Employment Generation and welfare schemes to the tea plantation workers by converging the benefits with existing state developmental schemes.

Assuring that the Centre was aware of the plight of tea plantation workers and was making all efforts for their welfare, Union Minister of State for Labour and Employment Oscar Fernandes today said the tea industry in India was going through a crisis due to stiff competition in the International market and decline in productivity and quality of tea produced.

Addressing the Parliamentary Consultative Committee meeting for his ministry here, Mr Fernandes said the government "is fully aware" of the gaps between the provisions of the Plantations Labour Act 1951 and the extent to which these welfare measures are being received by the workers.

"In order to bridge this gap, the Ministry recently issued guidelines to the state governments for effective implementation of these welfare measures, where facilities are not being made available to the workforce due to sickness or financial problems faced by the gardens," the minister told the members.

India is one of the largest tea producers in the world and accounts for about 27 per cent of the world tea production.

He said the state governments have been requested to extend the benefits of the Employment Generation and welfare schemes with developmental schemes to the plantation workers by converging the benefits of these schemes with various developmental schemes of the state government concerned. Further, the state hae been asked to extend the health services being provided by the primary health centres to the workers and their families in the closed and the sick tea gardens. All these, he said, are meant to be treated as supplementary measures on part of the government till the financial health of the tea gardens improves.

Mr Fernandes said the Commerce and Industry Ministry, as the nodal ministry for plantations including tea plantation, is making efforts to improve the productivity and quality of the garden and "a rehabilitation package for closed tea gardens has been announced to facilitate their economic resurrection." The Ministry was carrying out suitable amendments to the Plantation Labour Act, 1951 regarding amplification of the definition of 'employer', 'worker', and 'family' to make them more broad-based. The proposal prohibits child labour in the plantations and provides for safeguards for safety, health and simplify the provisions for providing medical facilities to the plantation workers.

Members of Parliament who attended the meeting were: Mr Dawa Narbulla, Mr Gurudas Dasgupta, Mr Balihari Babu, Mr Mohammed Amin, Mr Narayan Singh Kesari and Mr Bapuhari Chaure.

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