GUWAHATI: The Gauhati High Court’s stay on the enhanced daily wage to tea garden workers has handed the opposition parties enough ammo to fire at the state’s ruling BJP.
On February 23, the government had hiked the daily wage by Rs 50 – from Rs 167 to Rs 217 – ostensibly to warm up to the tea community ahead of Assembly elections.
However, the Gauhati High Court had on Monday ordered the government not to take any action against the Indian Tea Association and 17 tea companies, which own nearly 90% of the state’s over 800 gardens, until a case, filed challenging the Assam Labour Department’s notification on the wage hike, is disposed of.
As the poll campaign heats up, the focus of the political parties has been more on the tea garden votes. Assam has 126 Assembly segments and in around one/third of them, the votes of tea workers determine the fate of candidates.
The opposition parties are trying to capitalise on the court order. The Congress described the hike as a “poll gimmick”.
“The BJP had not followed proper official procedure required for raising the daily wage of tea workers as per the Daily Wage Act mentioned in the order...It is mentioned that no committees or sub-committees were formed. Hence, if they were sincere in implementing it, just by bringing out a notification is not enough. They should have followed all proper procedures required for implementation,” Congress leader Bobeeta Sarma said.
The newly-floated Asom Jatiya Parishad (AJP) accused the BJP of hoodwinking the workers.
“In the first place, why did they (BJP) go for a meagre hike? The enhanced wage should have been Rs 351. They promised it (in their Vision Document of 2016),” AJP leader Jagadish Bhuyan said.
“The government itself gave the scope to challenge the matter in the court. They had no idea the stay will he ordered so soon. They thought it will happen after the elections are over. The workers have been cheated. The hike was an election gimmick,” he added.
The BJP is not worried. It is confident that the court’s order is not going to affect the party’s poll prospects.
“This will not affect us. If there were technical mistakes, we will rectify them after retaining power. No party has done as much for the tea community as the BJP has done,” the party’s state unit chief Ranjeet Kumar Dass said.