March 16, 2012, Tejpur
The first stoppage of the yatra was Tejpur where organisations working in Tea Gardens had organised a public meeting. Mr. Bodo Baskindu, Adivasi worker shared in the meeting that in Assam, there are more than 1000 tea gardens on which, about 70 lac people are dependent for their livelihood. 80% of tea garden workers were brought from neighbouring states about 100 years ago by the British. Unfortunately, no basic infrastructure has been developed for them even after 150 years. The average age of tea garden workers is only 50 yrs. In the last few days, many workers have dies due to bad health services. Mr. Nubaan Barlaa of All Adivasi Students Association of Assam shared that there are about 60 Tea Garden in Tejpur where primarily, labourers belonging to the Santhal and Uoraon tribes of Jharkhand. Unfortunately, they are treated like slaves even in independent India and are denied land and other civil rights. They have not been given tribal status in the state of Assam. He said that since February 2nd, workers in Samaguri tea garden (spread in 600) bhigha are sitting on protest. All the labourers are demanding that they be given ownership rights on this land, both for agriculture and for constructing home. When these families were brought from Gumla district to Samagudi about 120 years ago, there was a written agreement between the Tea garden owners and the labourers and about 100 acres land was kept aside for cultivation and construction of home. They were also told that they would be given livelihood and social security provisions as permanent labour. The lease of ITPL Company Samaguri has expired where about 80 families are living permanently. Despite dialogue with the company and government at various levels, their demands have not been accepted. Mr. Nelkhas Toppo, Secretary Dekichuli Anchalik Committee said that in most of the areas where cultivation is being done by tea garden labourers is now being shown in the name of Assam Tea limited and labourers who are settled here for the last 5 generation are in the process displacement. He further said that on April 2, 2012, all tea garden laboureres are collectively having a dialogue with central government. He expressed confidence that through the Jan Satyagrah, issues of the tea garden labourers will also be placed before the government. He stated that if the government does not accept the demands of the laboureres before October 2, they will join the Jan satyagraha for decisive action.