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

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Labour Subjugation and Labour Resistance

One Hundred Years of Servitude: Political Economy of Tea Plantations in Colonial Assam by Rana P Behal, New Delhi: Tulika, 2014; pp 387, Rs 765.

Rana P Behal’s book, One Hundred Years of Servitude: Political Economy of Tea Plantations in Colonial Assam is a significant contribution to the literature on labour history, with special reference to Assam’s tea industry. This book takes us to the inception of tea plantation/industry in Assam and helps us understand the struggles of the labourers in these gardens. Detailed ethnographies give an insight into the tea garden labourers’ everyday struggle for survival. The writer has used quantitative data to substantiate his arguments.

The book is organised in six chapters, which help us understand how the state facilitated the expansion of industries and assisted tea garden owners in violating labour rights. The labourers were denied good working conditions and decent wages. This book shows that their links with the colonial government enabled the garden owners to reduce labour cost, increase production and maximise profit. It was only after the emergence of unions that the workers were able to demand better pay and working conditions. But their achievements were limited and unionisation did not help in improving the condition of the workers.

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