Pandemic and Tea-Laborers of Dooars (India): A Dysphoric Situation of Social Disparity

By Arghya Das

 25th March 2020, a Corona cornet alarmed, and the lockdown (first period) of 21 days started in India after a short declaration by our noteworthy Prime Minister. The pandemic named COVID-19 or CORONA virus infection has become the most atrocious experience for every person and we have quite recently understood how small we are before nature even though we are living in the age of science and “We only realize how beautiful life is when we face death” (Ikiru- Akira Kurusawa, 1952).

This pandemic raised numerous social, economic, and human rights-related inquiries before humanity. State and the nation are battling against this virus with wartime perseverance but now the fight isn’t just against the sickness yet besides the socio-economic discrepancy which attracts the pointed attention towards the traumatized situation of the marginalized people of the society. In Dooars area of North Bengal (India), the greater parts of the laborers are allied to the tea plantation, working at 176 rupees (2.33 USD) for a day that is even lower than the wage of 100 days work under MGNREGA(Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act). The vast majority of those individuals need food, house, and hospitals to endure as for them the battle is against hunger. Mainly these workers come together in the tea-garden to carry out their work that is culling the tea-leaves and nourish the garden. In the middle of the schedule, they normally finish their meal and tattle about the roses and thorns of daily life. At the point when the whole world is petrified, maintaining “stay at home, stay safe” rule, and attempting to peer out the social distancing then for the tea-laborers, it’s incomprehensible as these works are generally a “team game”.

The Central Government declared to begin the work with 50% laborers yet the State Government denied it. At that juncture, the state government has allowed beginning the garden with 25% of the all-out work check. That implies every lot of workers (25%) of each garden will get the chance to work once and as the tea-gardens are running in “no work, no pay” strategy, the workers won’t be able to think up a base measure of nourishment for the family. These tea gardens have seen such a death toll in 2003-2005 too when many tea-workers were passed on as a result of starvation, ailing health, and absence of clinical comforts. As detailed by the 2013 report among 276 tea-gardens, just 166 have their hospitals, 56 gardens have full-time specialists, 116 emergency clinics don’t have attendants and regrettably, not many of the gardens are encouraged with the ambulance.

As indicated by the Business Standard Newspaper report on the off chance that the work in gardens is stopped up during lockdown, at that point tea industry will confront a loss of roughly 2000 crore and the majority of the garden can experience an absolute shutdown. So the owner-side requested the government to open the tea-gardens as they can take the benefit out of this “Green gold” to their financial credit. However, the worker’s guilds constantly impugn against this demand as they have trepidation that if the garden will open thousands of laborers will be contaminated because there are no arrangements of masks, sanitizers, soaps, and others. Like I told before social distancing is next to impossible things here but ironically social ‘distancing’ is maintained between hunger and profit.

Tea-workers are facing an excess of a nuisance to pull on their miserable situation throughout the year because of the flaccid socio-economic and clinical condition of tea-gardens. So, we do not need to be much prudent to understand that if these workers get contaminated then effectively this malady will show an enormous upheaval.

From this discussion, we can construe that when one lot of individuals are busy uploading their status with dalgona coffee, different recipes of food, new dresses, and hobbies in different social media platforms then another set of people have to fight with the dread of death for every pinch of the food. It’s clear that if these deprived, lower-class workers won’t pass away in Corona, they will kick the bucket in starvation. This dysphoric situation of social disparity pushes these poor individuals to work at this time of the pandemic. Along these lines, before yelling to keep up the physical distancing procedure, we need to realize that everyone doesn’t have that social privilege to sit on the couch and make posts on social media. In this tough time, not only the government but the privileged society should also come ahead and take humanitarian measures that will help to ensure the rights of food, clothes, shed, and wellbeing of the tea-laborers.

About the Author: 

Arghya Das is a teacher and writer working as an Assistant Teacher under WBPPE, posted in Rajganj Circle, Jalpaiguri and have completed M.Sc in Microbiology, M.A in Education,B.Ed and PDPET. 

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