India’s Gauhati High Court on Friday intervened on behalf of two million tea workers by suspending the Central government’s order to stop supplying subsidized grains.
The ruling temporarily permits tea gardens to continue a decades-long practice of providing rice and wheat to workers for a few pennies per kilo. Justice AK Goswami set a Jan. 21 hearing date for a hearing at which the government will present its case.
The suspension was sought by the Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha (ACMS) labor union which represents many of Assam’s 1,928,719 tea laborers, each of whom has received a 6.92 kilogram weekly ration of grain for the past 60 years.
Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi praised the decision. Gogoi had vigorously opposed the Central government decision to cut off grain subsidies on Jan. 1. He asked for an extension at least until the National Food Security Act can be implemented in Assam. The act provides a subsidy for qualified workers regardless of occupation.
Tea companies are required by law to provide basic foods to workers. Previously the government made available rice, wheat and coarse grains suitable for animal feed at prices much lower than market.
Shipments are scheduled quarterly and the Consultative Committee of Plantations’ Association (CCPA) representing tea companies had already begun buying rations at double the subsidized price.
ACMS named the Government of India, the Government of Assam, the Director of Food and Civil Supplies (Assam) and the Food Corporation of India.
Source: The Shillong Times
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