Another non-governmental organisation (NGO) Saturday alleged that starvation had led to the deaths of 12 persons in the Bhuban Valley tea estate in Assam’s Barak Valley region, and that the state government had turned a blind eye to the whole matter.
The Peoples’ Rights Forum (PRF) presented to the media their survey report on the circumstances that led to the starvation and deaths of 12 labourers in the tea estate and said that another seven tea gardens were awaiting a similar fate in the Barak Valley.
“Twelve people have died due to starvation and the condition of 45 other labourers is still serious in the Bhuban Valley tea estate. The management decided to close down the estate Oct 11, 2011 and it led to starvation as the labourers have no other option to earn their livelihood,” said Raju Narzary, the PRF’s convener.
“It is a clear violation of the Right To Live, which was enshrined in Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. The Supreme Court had made it clear in one of its recent judgments that labourers must at least be given rice through the Public Distribution System (PDS) by the local administration in case of closure of the garden. However, in case of the closure of the Bhuban Valley tea estate, the local administration did not do anything for the labourers,” said Narzary.
The organization also condemned the Assam government’s inquiry report on the issue, which negated any starvation-led death in the tea estate.
“We suspect that the government inquiry report is biased,” Narzary said. He demanded an independent inquiry over the whole issue and immediate food relief to the labourers in the tea estate. “It is a matter of shame that 12 labourers died of starvation particularly at a time when the government is giving so much stress on the Right To Food, which guarantees food to everyone in the country,” he said.
Wilfred Topno, a member of the fact-finding team of the PRF, further said that a similar fate was awaiting seven other tea estates in the Barak Valley region — Chargola Valley, Durganagar, Modon Mohan, Sreebehula, Sengla Chera, Chincoorie and Saraswati.
“The incident of starvation in Bhuban Valley is just an eye opener. Labourers in the other seven tea estates are also awaiting a similar fate as the management continues to give poor wages to them, which is far below the wage fixed by the government and there are no basic amenities in the tea estates,” Topno said.
Before the PRF, the Barak Valley-based human rights organization, the Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC) had sent letters to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and to the union labour minister seeking their intervention over the alleged starvation deaths in the Bhuban Valley tea estate.