Around 250 to 300 tea workers of at least 90 indigenous families continued their strike for the second consecutive day yesterday, demanding most basic needs such as safe drinking water, sanitary toilet facilities and schooling for their children at Ayeshabagh Tea Garden in Moulvibazar’s Barlekha upazila.
The tea garden is located in an isolated area, 85 kilometres away from the town of Moulvibazar.
Living on a Tk 99-wage and 0.5-kg ration of rice or flour each day and staying in shanties scattered all over the hilly garden area, the workers are urging intervention of the government in realising their seven-point demand.
Their other demands include permission to cultivate rice and vegetables on unused land in the tea garden and keep goats or cattle and plant trees around their dwellings.
They are also demanding payment of festival bonus that remained unpaid for years.
The indigenous workers are deprived of necessary housing with facilities necessary for humans, thanks to the negligence of the authorities concerned, said Ajit Bunarji, president of the tea garden’s panchayat committee.
In the absence of adequate sanitary toilets, the workers most of the time defecate out in jungles, resulting in spread of diarrhoea and other waterborne diseases, he added.
Tea worker Suman Karmakar said the worker families living inside Ayeshabagh Tea Garden do not get any healthcare, education or other basic services provided by the government.
Mina Bauri, an elderly tea worker, said only five or six of their children now agree to walk three kilometres in the hilly area to reach the closest school, Pallarthal Government Primary School.
“I’m losing interest in school since it’s too hard for me to walk this long every day,” said fourth grader Moni Karmakar Kharia.
Apu Nayek, general secretary of Cha Bagan Panchayat Committee, said the tea workers placed the demands with the tea garden authorities back in 2014. Since those demands still remain unrealised, they decided to go on an indefinite strike on Friday.
“We hope that the government will intervene to ensure that our demands are met [by the tea garden authorities],” he also said.
Mizanur Rahman, manager of the garden, said, the workers’ demands were being looked into and discussed with the management.