Bangladesh Tea workers cry for winter clothes | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 05, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 11:44 AM, February 05, 2020

Tea workers cry for winter clothes

Bone-chilling cold wave accompanied by mild wind in the last few days have disrupted normal life in Sreemangal of the district. Especially poor people living in tea gardens in the upazila are more vulnerable as they are passing days in extreme misery without warm clothes.

The minimum temperature recorded in Sreemangal was 6.5 degrees Celsius yesterday and 6.6 degrees Celsius on Monday, said Md Jahedul Islam Masum, observer of the upazila met office.

Krisan Bhumij, son of a tea worker in Lakhai tea garden under the upazila, said cold spell has made life very difficult in Moulvibazar and the adjoining districts. The elderly tea workers, women and children are mostly affected by the biting cold.

Thousands of tea workers have been suffering due to scarcity of winter clothes, he said.

The cold wave has been sweeping through the area for the last seven days, said Krisan, adding that some organisations distributed warm clothes among tea workers’ families, but the supply is not enough to meet demand.

Riten Kanda, a tea worker in Lakhai tea garden, said fog almost covers the whole day and the sun does not rise before 12:00 noon.  Due to this, life has come to a standstill.

“We depend on a daily income. We could not work in the last few days due to the biting cold. So, we had to borrow money from others to run the family,” said Sudama Roy, a tea worker from Dakhchhara tea garden.

Tea worker Ratan Bhumij, who lives in a bamboo-made tent, said “The cold wave hit us following the rainfall in the last few days. My two children are suffering from fever due to this chilling weather.”

Fifty-year-old Sushil Tanti from Lakhai tea garden said his wife and son died a few years ago and at present, there is nobody to take care of him.

He is now shivering in the chilly winter at his tiny hut in the colony of the tea garden as he has no warm clothes, said Sushil.

“Not only me, most of the tea workers in Sylhet division are also passing same condition due to the scarcity of warm clothes,” he added.

Pranesh Goala, chairman of Kalighat Union Parishad (UP), said the poor tea workers do not have the ability to purchase warm clothes.

As the workers cannot go out for work due to the fog and biting cold, they have to pass days half-starved, said Pranesh.

Bijoy Banerjee, chairman of Rajghat UP, said “I need around 15,000 pieces of warm clothes for the affected people of my union as there are 20,000 voters. Of them, 95 percent are tea workers.”

Contacted, Ashraf Ali, relief and rehabilitation officer of Relief and Rehabilitation Department in Moulvibazar, said they received total 41200 pieces of warm clothes from the ministry concerned.

They have already distributed 460 warm clothes among chairmen of 67 union parishads and five municipalities, he said.

They also sought more blankets for the cold-hit poor people in the district, said Ashraf.

Dr Partha Kanti Datta Kanungo, superintendent of Moulvibazar Sadar Hospital, said the extreme cold weather has also caused outbreak of diarrhea, pneumonia and other diseases.

Children and elderly people are mostly affected by the cold-related diseases, he said.

Makhon Lal Karmaker, central president of Bangladesh Cha Sramik Union, said around seven lakh tea workers live in 156 tea gardens of Sylhet division. Most of them, who live under poverty lines, are the worst victims. They have been suffering a lot due to the bone-chilling cold wave sweeping through the area in the last few days.

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