Women tea garden workers in West Bengal facing poverty
Women workers of tea gardens in Siliguri District, West Bengal, are facing poverty.
Siliguri district is dotted by tea gardens, nearly four million labourers and workers work in these gardens.
A substantial number of female workers are involved in the process of plucking tea leaves in the gardens which is a tedious task and takes all day long to be accomplished.
With such a work schedule they are left with only one choice that is to leave their children in the care of common women babysitter, who are unable to provide the children with individual attention due to their large numbers.
The babysitters are running the baby care centres under the shade of a single makeshift tent where about 20 to 30 children are housed together between the ages of 1 to 3 years, while their mothers toil in the tea gardens.
A majority of these babysitting centres lack the basic amenities that are required for foster care. Some of the babysitters tie the small children with ropes so that they may not wander off.
The women workers feel helpless as they have to leave their children in the care of these babysitters.
"What would we do with our children? So we leave them here. We try to give them a mother's love but then we have to leave them with babysitters. We are such poor people, what would we feed them? We leave them here and go to work," said Jyoti Barak, a female tea garden worker.
Many of these women are also aware of the fact that leaving their children at these centres does little good to the young ones, as they are not been provided with good food or motherly care.
"We reach here by eight in the morning, put our children here and give them some sweets before leaving for work. The babysitter takes care of the child, the mother just gives some sweets and water to him before leaving for work. Is not this our helplessness? We have never been able to give love to our children properly. This is why our children have become so weak because of crying so much," said Sujata, another female tea garden worker.
The poor conditions under which the tea garden workers subsist forces both men and women of the house to work in the tea estates for a living.
The recent legislations related to the labour laws have done little for these tea garden workers to improve their conditions.
India produces average 980 million kilograms and the production of tea in North Bengal is around 230 million kilograms which gives huge dollars to the tea industries.