A DNA report said, "Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has chosen to downplay the stark realities, when the fact is more than 30 workers of closed tea gardens have perished in the past seven months. She has attributed the mounting death toll to age-related ailments and other diseases since acknowledging the truth would have tarnished her government's pro-poor image."
As per reports, nearly 100 people have perished due to hunger and diseases since January and 10 deaths have been reported within this month in the North Bengal region where slowly and gradually the tea gardens are getting closed.
Since January, nearly 100 hunger deaths took place in Bengal
With the tea gardens closed, such is the condition of the workers that they don't have money to even buy food and thus they are seen resorting to the extremes, like selling children and eating rats and snakes. And even the children attend school in the region as under the mid-day meal scheme, they get to eat at least once a day.
"We barely survive, collecting leaves and shrubs from the garden to eat. Children attend school as they get to eat once a day (under the mid-day meal scheme)," a worker was quoted as saying in the TOI.
Even doctors are blaming the malnutrition for the poor health of the tea workers in the region.
"Most of the labourers who turn up at our health centre are malnourished. We provide them with a few medicines, but they don't have money to buy the other medicines from the market. Left without work, the labourers cannot even buy food," said Sudip Jana, the doctor at the health centre.
With nearly five to six tea gardens shut in West Bengal, workers are left jobless and thus have pushed them to the brink of desperation.
Who is responsible for this - government or owners of tea plantations?
If the owners had abided by the Plantations Labour Act, the workers and those dependent on them would not have faced all this as the Act made it obligatory for the owners to provide health care, housing and education to all the labourers.
The state Government too hasn't cracked the whip on the plantation owners and worked for their well being. The Mamata Government keeps on harping about its pro-poor image but so far it has not done anything concrete for these jobless tea workers to prove the same.
(Photo Courtesy: IBNLive)