ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Tea, Tragedy and Child Trafficking in the Terai Dooars

A large number of tea estates in the Terai-Dooars region of the sub-Himalayan north Bengal have become non-operational or sick because of local and global economic conditions. The resulting joblessness has made this area a hunting ground for child traffickers who push children, especially girls, into slave-type domestic labour or sex services.

Many tea estates in the Terai- Dooars region of the sub-Himalayan north Bengal have been affected by local and global economic shocks. The shocks have proved fatal for some gardens while others, however, have withstood them. Those who failed to cope wound up leaving workers in the lurch. Some of the tea estates have been occasionally shutting down and reopening since 2002. The loss of livelihoods has meant unspeakable misery for the plantation workers. One manifestation of this misery is the starvation deaths in the abandoned gardens. The Centre for Development and Human Rights (CDHR), a leading social organisation in this region, estimates that 3,000 workers who worked in the now non-operational tea gardens have succumbed to starvation between 2001 and 2006 (Centre for Development and Human Rights 2006). Following reports of the starvation deaths, the Supreme Court in 2011 appointed Talwar an advisor for implementation of the right to food in the closed tea gardens. The government refuses to accept starvation as the reason for the widespread deaths. It ascribes these deaths to waterborne diseases and accuses those affected by them of staying away from government hospitals. The government also seeks to lay the blame on the garden authorities for medical neglect. The state refuses to look at hunger, malnutrition and loss of immunity in the discourse on the workers’ deaths. Closure of the tea gardens is usually preceded by recurrent sickness (Talwar, Chakraborty and Biswas 2005).

Crisis in Tea Economy

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