Assam tea workers’ return to their roots

In what has been seen as an alarming development in the 180-year-old plantation industry of Assam, a large number of tea plantation workers are leaving their jobs and going back to their ancestral homes outside Assam. Fearing that this reverse migration of tea garden workers may aggravate the shortage workers further, the chairman of North Eastern Tea Association Bidyananda Barkakoty revealed, “Reverse migration is taking place in some areas. About 300 families have left the tea estate and gone back to Telangana.” Disclosing this alarming trend of reverse migration at biennial general meeting of the association at Golaghat on Saturday, Mr Barkakoty said, “Shortage of labour is going to be a major challenge for the tea industry. We have already started feeling the pinch. Absenteeism has already been an area of concern. We have taken up this issue with Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha (ACMS) at several meetings.” He also clarified that absenteeism and shortage of labour, though inter-related — are two different issue. “Shortage of workers in many gardens are felt even without absenteeism,” he added. Mr Bidyananda Barkakoty, however, declined to divulge the name of the tea estate, but confirmed that migration of tea garden workers from Assam to Kerala had also been noticed. To overcome the problem of shortage of manpower and absenteeism, the NETA chairman stressed the need of adopting a multi-pronged strategy of mechanisation and setting up a human resource development (HRD) institute. “The changing lifestyle and modern living standards require an overhauling of the traditional management style,”Mr Barkakoty said.