Tata, the transnational Indian conglomerate whose Tetley Group makes the world famous Tetley teas, has taken 6,500 people hostage through hunger. The hostages are nearly 1,000 tea plantation workers and their families on the Nowera Nuddy Tea Estate in West Bengal, India. Permanently living on the edge of hunger, the workers and their dependants are being pushed to the edge of starvation through an extended lock out which has deprived them of wages for all but two days since the beginning of August. The goal of this collective punishment is to starve the workers into renouncing their elementary human rights, including the right to protest extreme abuse and exploitation.Click through for the rest.
The hostage-taking began with a first lockout on August 10, when workers protested the abusive treatment of a 22 year-old tea garden worker who was denied maternity leave and forced to continue work as a tea plucker despite being 8 months pregnant. On August 9, Mrs Arti Oraon collapsed in the field and was brought to the hospital, on a platform towed by a tractor, after the medical officer refused to make an ambulance available (he had proposed she be brought by bicycle). She was initially refused treatment, and only after her co-workers protested did she receive minimal care. Her treatment was inadequate and she had to be taken, by the same tractor, to the local government hospital one hour away.
It takes about 30 seconds to send an automated email to Tetley to show your support for these locked out workers.
Currently I'm reading a novel called 1951, about the lockout of wharfies in our own country over 50 years ago. Many of the emergency regulations brought in at that time by the Holland Government seem incredibly draconian now; it was illegal to help the locked out workers or their families in anyway, even through giving them food, and no media coverage favourable to the workers was allowed either. Maia knows a lot more about the 1951 Lockout than me, so I hope she comments on this one. My observation reading the novel is just how hard the situation was on the families, as well as the workers themselves, and how the responsibility often fell on the mothers and wives to try to manage things. My grandfather was a wharfie in 1951, locked out and then black-listed, and the impact it had on the family was massive. My mother told me recently that my Nana didn't have a single intact piece of underwear by the end of the lockout; a difficult way to live for a 1950s housewife no doubt. I can only imagine how much tougher it must be for these tea workers.