Ahead of Assam elections, BJP, which heads the state’s three-party ruling coalition is doling out cash and various schemes to tea garden workers to secure their votes.
According to The New Indian Express, the Assam government on Saturday transferred Rs 3,000 each to the bank accounts of 7,46,667 tea workers under the Cha Bagichhar Dhan Puraskar Mela. Earlier, they had received two installments of Rs 2,500 each.
In Assam, which has 126 assembly seats among which 40-42 of them are in Upper, Central, and Northern Assam besides Barak Valley, the votes of the tea garden workers play a key role in determining the fate of political parties.
Hence, BJP, which is facing a challenge from Congress and other regional parties, is trying to retain power by winning over the tea workers by offering them a number of incentives.
Ahead of the 2014 parliamentary elections, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had also spoken about tea workers who are often ignored.
“Assam tea has a brand value and the world remembers it. We all have tea waking up in the morning but your children eat stale rice. This situation has to change. The children of the workers, who provide tea to the world, must have access to fresh food, not stale food,” Sitharaman had said while addressing thousands of tea workers.
Adding to it, Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal also said the previous Congress government had deprived the tea workers of their rights but now under the BJP, the tea workers enjoy digital facilities which anyone in the metros does.
“We introduced several schemes in tea gardens for the development of the workers. The children of tea workers are today marching ahead to win the world. Three of them cracked the Assam civil services exam,” Sonowal said.
The Assam government has initiated a number of schemes for the tea community. They get free rice. Every pregnant woman is handed a financial aid of Rs 12,000 for nutrition. So far, 47,000 women have availed of the benefit.
The state’s Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has also assured a hike in the wages of the tea workers and to make sure that the children of each tea garden worker have access to education and financial assistance.
The government has also reserved seats in medical and engineering institutes for the children of tea workers. It is now working on reserving 10% seats at all colleges and providing breakfast to the children of the community in addition to mid-day meal.
It has started building schools in 199 gardens which the government says they should be functional from May 1.