KOLKATA: Assam has witnessed over 300% rise in Covid-19 positive cases among the workers of tea gardens, which keeps the state’s economy rolling, in 10 days.
Till May 28, 6,146 workers tested positive for Covid in 370 tea gardens with 43 deaths while till May 19, 1,851 positive cases were recorded in 220 tea gardens with 14 deaths.
Vaccination performance is also said to be very poor in the tea-belt of the eastern India’s state which has 800 tea gardens.
Dhiraj Goala, the president of Assam Tea Tribe Students Association (ATTSA), said in the state's tea garden region, around 25 lakh people are directly or indirectly work in the agro industry. "Among them, the vaccination rate is very low. Complete vaccination of the tea garden community can possibly check spread of the infection and the government needs to prioritise it," he said.
Assam has over 6 lakh tea garden workers. Till now, 44,000 have received the first dose of Covid vaccine and only over 3,000 have got the second dose.
The affected tea estate’s labour line, which accommodates workers’ lodging facility, has been declared a containment zone. Those who tested positive for Covid-19 are in Covid care facility in the estate.
The number of Covid care centres are also said to be inadequate. Among the 370 affected tea gardens, 271 of these have Covid care centres, according to record available with the state government’s health department.
In the first wave, Assam had hardly recorded Covid positive cases. "Now the virus is being spread rapidly in the tea estates. The tea tribe community with their poor daily wage, lack of education and awareness, poor hygiene are extremely vulnerable to covid infection and it is a real concern as they form about 18% of Assam’s total population," said an official of the state health department.
Assam government formed covid management committees in every tea gardens to monitor the situation closely. "The government is responding according to the reports submitted by the management committees. The reports mention where we need to start vaccination and where testing is required," said the official.