Where ‘tribes’ of an ailing tea industry hold the key

first_imgDev Kanta Barooah, the Congress president during the Emergency, had no qualms about saying that the party depended on Ali-Coolie-Bangali for votes.Ali stood for migrant Muslims, Coolie – a British pejorative – for tea plantation workers and Bangali for migrant Bengali Hindus. Together, they are more than 60% of Assam’s 21,760,604 voters.The Congress received its first jolt in 1985 when the Asom Gana Parishad, riding on sentiments generated by the Assam agitation, secured votes of the indigenous communities, while the migrant Hindus and Muslims chose the now-defunct United Minorities Front.Plantation workers, casually referred to as “tea tribes”, brought from central India’s Chhotanagpur Plateau remained loyal to the Congress until most of them shifted allegiance to the Bharatiya Janata Party in 2014. That year, the BJP bagged four of the five Lok Sabha seats – Dibrugarh, Jorhat, Lakhimpur, Tezpur and Kaliabor – where the votes of the tea plantation workers matter.Tea plantation workers constitute 35-45% of the voters in these five seats where elections would be held in the first phase on April 11.A majority of the 800 tea estates and 65,000 small tea gardens are in the districts covered by the Dibrugarh and Jorhat parliamentary seats.“The liquor tragedy a month ago, the failure of the BJP government in granting Scheduled Tribe (ST) status to plantation workers, and non-revision of wages of tea workers will bring them back to the Congress,” Rupesh Gowala, general secretary of the Congress-affiliated Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha, said.Illegal brewersBrothers Avinash, 10, Mahesh, 8, and Mangal Pujor, 5, lost their parents to toxic sulai (country spirit) that eventually claimed 159 lives at Halmira and Borhola tea estates in Golaghat and Jorhat districts on February 21. Currently lodged at a children’s home in Bokakhat near Kaziranga National Park, they want to go back home to the labour lines of Halmira.“Their orphanhood would not have been noticed had this tragedy not been on a large scale. Otherwise, liquor and various diseases have been killing labourers for ages,” said Bablu Bhumij, head of the labour section where 47 people died that day.“The Congress had tried to control drinking among tea workers but the pro-industrialists BJP relaxed norms for running liquor shops and became lenient toward illegal brewers. We intend to make Assam’s tea belts dry areas,” Pawan Singh Ghatowar, five-time MP from Dibrugarh, seeking to regain the seat from BJP’s Rameswar Teli, said.“The government was quick in taking action against illegal brewers. The Congress is making this an issue because they have nothing else to tell the people in the tea gardens since the people are happy with beneficiary schemes and cash incentives,” Mr. Teli, the BJP candidate, said.Both Mr. Ghatowar and Mr. Teli belong to the tea community.The top contenders for the Jorhat seat are State Minister Topon Kumar Gogoi of the BJP and Sushanta Borgohain of the Congress. The latter hopes to cash in on the perceived resentment among tea workers against the BJP for replacing incumbent Kamakhya Prasad Tassa, a tea community leader, with Mr Gogoi.Seeking ST statusOne of six communities seeking ST status, the “tea tribes” constitute about 20% of Assam’s 3.3 crore population. According to the Assam Tea Tribes Students’ Association, the community comprises 112 ethnic groups.But the Assam government submitted ethnographic reports of only 36 groups to the Union Tribal Ministry for granting ST status. “Leaving out the 76 groups will be an injustice,” a spokesperson of the association said.But the All Adivasi Students’ Association of Assam has justified the government’s move. “The others cannot be included in the ST list as they enjoy the Scheduled Castes and OBC status. But yes, the government has to fast-track the case of the 36 groups,” its leader Stephen Lakra said. “The BJP government has advanced the process of granting ST status that the Congress sat upon for years. We will definitely take it to a logical conclusion if voted to power again,” Assam Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, the BJP’s campaign strategist, said.Low wagesThe Congress and other opposition parties feel that incentives in cash and kind provided by the Sarbananda Sonowal government might impact the tea workers.“We are happy with the Rs 5,000 put in our bank accounts some time ago, but we would be happier with a higher daily wage,” Rabul Turi, a labour leader across a chain of estates in Golaghat district said.The current daily wage of a plantation worker in Assam is Rs 167. The minimum daily wage for tea workers in Rs 310 in Kerala, Rs 263 in Karnataka, and Rs 241 in Tamil Nadu, labour union leaders said.The newly-floated Adivasi National Party Assam, supporting independent candidates in Dibrugarh and Jorhat constituencies, has demanded payment of Rs 350 as proposed by the State advisory board for tea workers.Planters, though, say wages are already on the higher side. “Cheaper teas produced by Sri Lanka and Kenya have eaten into our markets. We cannot sell below a certain price as we have to factor in high wages, which comes to more than Rs 350 if free or subsidised rations, firewood allowance, housing, medical, free electricity and other benefits are taken into account,” a planter, declining to be quoted, said.last_img read more


Defending champion Karlovic wins in Hall of Fame tourney

first_imgLacson: SEA Games fund put in foundation like ‘Napoles case’ Ethel Booba on hotel’s clarification that ‘kikiam’ is ‘chicken sausage’: ‘Kung di pa pansinin, baka isipin nila ok lang’ MOST READ Don’t miss out on the latest news and information. Robredo: True leaders perform well despite having ‘uninspiring’ boss PLAY LIST 02:49Robredo: True leaders perform well despite having ‘uninspiring’ boss02:42PH underwater hockey team aims to make waves in SEA Games01:44Philippines marks anniversary of massacre with calls for justice01:19Fire erupts in Barangay Tatalon in Quezon City01:07Trump talks impeachment while meeting NCAA athletes02:49World-class track facilities installed at NCC for SEA Games Church, environmentalists ask DENR to revoke ECC of Quezon province coal plant Hotel says PH coach apologized for ‘kikiam for breakfast’ claim FEU Auditorium’s 70th year celebrated with FEU Theater Guild’s ‘The Dreamweavers’ LeBron loses ‘best teammate’ Jones to Suns Sports Related Videospowered by AdSparcRead Next Top-seeded John Isner, the big-serving American who won Newport titles in 2011 and 2012, used 13 aces to beat Australia’s Sam Groth 6-2, 6-4. Isner will play fellow American Dennis Novikov, a 6-3, 6-2 winner over Canada’s Frank Dancevic.American Bjorn Fratangelo also advanced, beating Australia’s Akira Santillan 7-6 (3), 3-6, 6-1.FEATURED STORIESSPORTSSEA Games: Biñan football stadium stands out in preparedness, completionSPORTSPrivate companies step in to help SEA Games hostingSPORTSWin or don’t eat: the Philippines’ poverty-driven, world-beating pool starsTwo seeded players lost. Tobias Kamke of Germany edged No. 3 Adrian Mannarino, the Frenchman who reached the round of 16 at Wimbledon, 7-6 (5), 7-5, and Australian qualifier Matthew Ebden beat No. 6 Lukas Lacko of Slovakia 6-1, 7-6 (2).No. 4 Pierre-Hugues Herbert of France’s battled past Spain’s Adrian Menendez-Maceiras 7-5, 2-6, 6-3. National Coffee Research Development and Extension Center brews the 2nd National Coffee Education Congress Robredo should’ve resigned as drug czar after lack of trust issue – Panelo LATEST STORIES Trump strips away truth with hunky topless photo tweet Croatia’s Ivo Karlovic returns a ball to Britain’s Aljaz Bedene during their Men’s Singles Match on day one at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London Monday, July 3, 2017. (Gareth Fuller/PA via AP)NEWPORT, R.I.  — Defending champion Ivo Karlovic of Croatia beat American Denis Kudla 6-4, 6-4 on Wednesday in his Hall of Fame Tennis Championships opener to reach the quarterfinals in the grass-court event.The 38-year-old Karlovic had 16 aces and broke Kudla’s serve three times. Karlovic will face Germany’s Peter Gojowczyk, a 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 winner over Russia’s Konstantin Kravchuk.ADVERTISEMENT View commentslast_img read more


Clink, clink: Lindsey Vonn walks away with another medal

first_imgSEA Games hosting troubles anger Duterte LATEST STORIES Whatever it was, the sound was a reminder of what Vonn has come to symbolize — an athlete who battled back from one major injury after another throughout her career to win more ski races than any other woman.Add one more — final — comeback to the listFEATURED STORIESSPORTSPrivate companies step in to help SEA Games hostingSPORTSUrgent reply from Philippine ‍football chiefSPORTSPalace wants Cayetano’s PHISGOC Foundation probed over corruption chargesFive days after crashing in super-G — a fall that knocked the wind out of her and left her with a black eye and a bruised rib — and three months after tearing a ligament in her left knee, Vonn won the bronze medal in the world championship downhill Sunday in the final race of her career.She’s shed so many tears that there are none left — just like she no longer has any cartilage in her knees. Oil plant explodes in Pampanga town Third placed United States’ Lindsey Vonn celebrates on the podium after the women’s downhill race, at the alpine ski World Championships in Are, Sweden, Sunday, Feb. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Giovanni Auletta)ARE, Sweden (AP) — Lindsey Vonn walked off with her career haul of medals in her right hand, the gold, silver and bronze clinking together almost weighing her down.Or was it the bulging knee braces and metal support rods inside her vast array of broken bones?ADVERTISEMENT “I was weighing in my mind the risk of putting it all out there, crashing and getting injured again, as opposed to finishing where I wanted to,” Vonn said. “It was an internal battle.”As soon as she exited the finish area, Vonn embraced Swedish great Ingemar Stenmark, the only skier to win more World Cup races than she did — 86 to 82.“I basically begged him to come here via text, in all caps, many exclamation points,” Vonn said. “He’s an icon and a legend in our sport and he doesn’t really like the spotlight but he deserves to have it. I was just so grateful that he was there. Honestly, it’s a perfect ending to my career.”The third skier on the course, Vonn had a big smile on her face when she came down with the fastest run to that point. She waved and bowed to the crowd.Eventually, Ilka Stuhec of Slovenia beat Vonn and took gold, defending her title from the 2017 worlds. Stuhec finished 0.23 seconds ahead of silver medalist Corinne Suter of Switzerland and 0.49 ahead of Vonn.“Not many were counting on (Vonn) to get the medal in her last race, which makes it even more special,” Stuhec said. “She has won everything.”Vonn became the first female skier to win medals at six different world championships. It’s also her fifth downhill medal at a worlds, matching the record established by Annemarie Moser-Proell and Christel Cranz.“Thank You Lindsey: Forever A Star,” read one sign positioned by the side of the course.Four U.S. flags were in the grandstand when Vonn came down and there were quite a few cheers when she started her run wearing a suit with blue-and-yellow trim — Sweden’s colors — to honor Stenmark.“She really deserves this sendoff from her great career,” said Eleanor Bodin, a 21-year-old fan from Sweden who was holding up a sign saying “Thank You Lindsey.” Phil Mickelson beats everyone but the dark at Pebble MOST READ US judge bars Trump’s health insurance rule for immigrants Grace Poe files bill to protect govt teachers from malicious accusations ‘We are too hospitable,’ says Sotto amid SEA Games woes ‘We are too hospitable,’ says Sotto amid SEA Games woes Oil plant explodes in Pampanga town “She has been my favorite skier since 2008 when I saw her winning on television,” Bodin said. “I was a little girl sitting on the sofa. I just thought what a great skier and inspiration.”At 34, Vonn eclipsed her own record from two years ago for oldest woman to win a medal at a worlds.Fog and wind forced organizers to shorten the course to the second reserve start, which favored Vonn because it reduced the strain on her knees.Now she can finally let her body heel and move onto the next phase of her life — possibly acting, having children, starting a business.“I’m looking forward to just chilling out a bit and recovering everything, including my mind,” Vonn said. “It’s been a lot to process.“The nice thing is that, in the real world I’m actually pretty young. I have felt really old for a long time, because I’m racing with girls that are like 15 years younger than me. So now, in the real world, I’m normal. Thirty is the new 20 so I’m super young. I’ve got a lot to look forward to.”Sports Related Videospowered by AdSparcRead Next Private companies step in to help SEA Games hosting “I’m literally tapped out, I can’t cry anymore,” Vonn said. “I want to cry but it’s dry. … It’s not an easy thing to feel your bones hitting together and continue to push through it.“Of course I’m sore. Even before the crash I was sore. So I’m just sore on top of sore. My neck is killing me,” Vonn said. “But at the end of the day no one cares if my neck hurts; they only care if I win. … I knew that I was capable of pushing through the pain one last time and I did that. … Every athlete has their own obstacles and I faced mine head on today and I conquered them.”Vonn had been planning on retiring in December but she recently moved up her plans due to persistent pain in both of her surgically repaired knees. Then came the super-G crash, when she straddled a gate in midair, flew face first down the mountain and slammed into the safety nets.“She has been business as usual this whole week, saying I’m racing to win,” Karin Kildow, Vonn’s sister, told The Associated Press. “I was like, ‘Just maybe make it down and maybe stand up.’ But she was like, ‘No, I’m going full out’. She was definitely in the mindset to push it and she really did.”It’s a medal that brings Vonn full circle: the American’s two silvers at the 2007 worlds on the same course in Are were the first two major championship medals of her career.ADVERTISEMENT PH underwater hockey team aims to make waves in SEA Games PLAY LIST 02:42PH underwater hockey team aims to make waves in SEA Games01:44Philippines marks anniversary of massacre with calls for justice01:19Fire erupts in Barangay Tatalon in Quezon City01:07Trump talks impeachment while meeting NCAA athletes02:49World-class track facilities installed at NCC for SEA Games02:11Trump awards medals to Jon Voight, Alison Krauss Don’t miss out on the latest news and information. View commentslast_img read more