The Congress government in Assam, often criticised by the opposition for eyeing the dominant tea garden labour community as a vote bank, has outlined measures for their welfare, ahead of the state assembly election slated for later this year.
"Our government has taken up many welfare programmes for the overall development of the tea community in the last nine years because we know it is impossible to think of a developed Assam without ameliorating their plight," Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, who will seek to be re-elected for a third consecutive term this time, said in a statement.
The government, he said, has allocated Rs 110 crore in the past nine years and plans to sanction Rs 20 crore this year for the welfare of the tea community while the previous Asom Gana Parishad regime had spent only Rs 10 crore.
Under the Assam Gratuity Fund Scheme, the provident fund deposit limit and insurance benefit in case of death has been increased. The Union Ministry of Trade and Commerce had announced a fund of more than Rs 2,000 crore as a special package to modernise the tea industry, which will help increase production as well as the income of the tea community, Gogoi said on Friday.
The state government will also set up a rest house and a cultural centre in Rupnagar. Besides, two other rest houses would be constructed at Dibrugarh and Silchar for the sick, ex-tea garden workers, their care takers or attendants. Another important endeavour to be undertaken by the government would be to expand the panchayats to the tea gardens.
"You will be happy to know that tea garden labourer families are getting benefits of Indira Awas Yojana, Swarna Jayanti Gram Swarajgar Yojana and other schemes," he said.
Referring to sick gardens and tea factories, the chief minister said the government has taken steps to revive 14 of them under the aegis of the Assam Tea Corporation, so that the livelihood of the labourers is ensured.
This apart, four new Industrial Training Institutes were established and 17 others modernised to enhance the capacity of the workers. Besides, a special scheme has been taken up to construct 50 training centres in as many tea garden areas of the state for capacity building for youths of the tea community, so that they can be self employed.
The government, he said, had improved health services in 300 tea gardens in 2010-2011 and plans to supply ambulances to those gardens.