Stephen Ekka on Tea Workers in Assam

28 February 2019

By Salil Tripathi, Senior Advisor, Global Issues, IHRB

Download Filetype: MP3 - Size: 17.04MB - Duration: 12:24 m (192 kbps 44100 Hz)

In this podcast, Stephen Ekka of PAJHRA, an indigenous organisation working for the tea workers in Assam, talks to IHRB's Salil Tripathi about his work fighting to improve pay, and working and living conditions of workers in the tea plantations of Assam. The tea workers are currently paid up to half the national minimum wage, and are exposed to chemicals in the course of their work; rates of tuberculosis are high, and education for dependants is minimal. Stephen describes a complaint filed through the World Bank Ombudsman for better wages - "the cup that cheers should not be the cup of tears". The case was ultimately challenged by the employers in the High Court and dismissed, but he continues to fight for their rights. 

Stephen is a first-generation educated in a family of tea workers. His grandparents were brought with a large group of Oraon, Munda and other tribes from Jharkhand to work in the tea plantation. He is a post-graduate in economics. He has been working for 20 years among the Adivasi tea workers in Assam. 

PAJHRA is a non-profit organisation started by educated Adivasis from Assam working for the rights and entitlement of Adivasis in the tea plantations and adjoining villages. They work among the women, children and tea plantation workers. During the last 15 years, the organisation has been able to mobilise youth and women and strengthened their platforms.

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