Adivasi Women Workers in Tea Plantations

Witches, Tea Plantations, and Lives of Migrant Laborers in India: Tempest in a Tea Pot by Soma Chaudhuri (New Delhi: Foundation Books), 2014; pp xiii + 193, Rs 695.

This book is broadly a study of women workers in tea plantations. Soma Chaudhuri has chosen the Dooars region of Jalpaiguri district for her research. This region is the larger tea growing area in West Bengal, the other being Darjeeling. Forefathers of the present plantation labourers were migrants from Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Odisha. They mainly belong to tribal communities. The plantations employing these workers are isolated and the workers tend to form their own communities within them.

Tea plantation workers are a part of industrial labour force as their working and living conditions are regulated by the Plantation Labour Acts and their working conditions are covered by the other Acts applicable to workers in the formal sector. In fact, tea plantations are the largest private sector, employing over a million permanent workers, half of whom are women. However, the isolation of the plantations, the abnormally low wages of the workers, low levels of literacy as well as the fact that the tea growing regions do not have any alternative forms of employment make these workers the most vulnerable section of industrial workers.

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