SILCHER: In a shocking revelation from the northeastern part of the country, CNN-IBN has exposed hunger deaths in the tea gardens of Silcher even as the state government has rubbished the claims of it and reopened the garden.
Ratna Goala, a 35-year-old woman, is among the 10 plantation workers who died out of hunger, lack of medical care and malnutrition in the Assam tea garden.
"No food, No money, No work, No land. That's how she died. How will people survive? Don't have any idea of food," said Sabitri Goala, a relative of Ratna.
Nearly 1000 workers were made to work at low wages ranging between Rs 40 to Rs 50 a day without non-wage benefits. Work in the garden came to a halt in October 2011 and the workers had to shift to just one meal a day to survive.
"The owners did not issue any notice, didn't declare lockout, just withdrew the management," said D N Baroi, assistant general secretary, BCSU.
Many workers in this tea garden have lost their lives because of inability to buy food or inability to buy medicine but the state government insists that none of these deaths were due to starvation.
"Whenever there are allegations regarding death by hunger, authorities take some sort of shelter under technicalities. They say it is not death caused by hunger rather malnutrition. But there is also a thin line between hunger and malnutrition," said Shantanu Ghosh, former editor, Jugashankha.
Barak Human Rights Committee says there have been at least 10 hunger deaths while the Congress affiliated labour union says four.
On February 7, in an open meeting, the garden was declared open on promises, Rs 24 lakh rupees would be paid to clear due wages and also provident funds, but not one word on the hunger deaths.