National Human Rights Commission
Manav Adhikar Bhawan,
Block-C, GPO Complex, INA,
New Delhi – 110023
Here I am writing to draw your attention to the deplorable situation at various tea gardens, and miseries and destitution of tea workers. We repeatedly brought the issues of starvation and lack of medical facility at different tea gardens in North Bengal to the attention of authorities concerned including your Commission by submitting complaints and fact finding reports, but there is of no appropriate response from any end. There have been a large number of workers and their family members suffering from malnutrition related diseases i.e. anemia, tuberculosis, blood dysentery, fever, etc, resulting from a combination of starvation and general debility.
In this recent case, I want to reveal the inhumane and unresponsive attitude of government medical deliverance system mounting the grief and agony of the tea garden workers. On 13th March 2017 evening, Bihani Lohar; wife of Mr. Bimal Lohar, Schedule Tribe, aged about 26
years of village- Raipur (Lohar Line); post office- Rongdhamali under Jalpaiguri police station consumed poison. She was brought to adjacent health centre but as her condition deteriorated she was rushed for Jalpaiguri Sadar Hospital through a hired car. Mr. Bimal Lohar hired
the car. On their way they had to stop for refuel the hired car; which caused delay to start her treatment. At last she got admitted at Emergency Ward of Jalpaiguri Sadar Hospital. The attending doctor prescribed few medicines and asked Mr. Bimal Lohat to buy those from
the adjacent fair price medical shop. Financial condition of Mr. Lohar was so impecunious at that time that he had only Rs. 100; which he borrowed from the driver of the hired car which brought his wife to the Jalpaiguri Sadar Hospital. Mr. Lohar went to the fair price medical shop with only Rs. 100; which he had but the price of the required medicines was not within Rs. 100; it necessitate few more bucks and the shopkeeper refused to give him the medicines. Mr. Lohar
pleaded for the medicines as his wife was at death bed at that time. The shopkeeper then enquired about his belongings at that time and Mr. Lohar had to mortgage a mobile phone; which he borrowed from one of his neighbor and returned to the emergency ward with medicines but in the meantime wife of Mr. Bimal Lohar breathed her last. Here It should be mentioned that medical care at government facilities are suppose to be free. Mr. Bimal Lohar considered that his wife died due to indifferent and inhumane attitude of the fair price medicine shop and he made written complaints on 23/03/2017 to the Chief Medical Officer (Health); Jalpaiguri and Block Development Officer of Jalpaiguri Sadar and demanded for justice. The post mortem examination was done over the body of Bihani Lohar on 14.03.2017 at Jalpaiguri Sadar Hospital; Dr. A.K Chakroborty done the PME. An Unnatural Death Case vide 113/17
of Jalpaiguri Kotwali PS has been initiated.
The incident only evidently proves the severely pitiable health delivery system in West Bengal and overall destitution of tea garden worker in northern parts of West Bengal.
In this circumstance I demand for:-
· The state government should provide urgent relief to the tea workers in terms of food supply and medical treatment to prevent further deaths and deterioration of health conditions of sick workers and their dependents.
- Without further delay, Rastriya Swasthya Bima Yojana be implemented to all Tea Garden workers in Jalpaigur, Darjeeling and Alipurduar districts
· The kin of the deceased person; Bihani Lohar should be provided with adequate reparation
· The errant shopkeeper and involved staffs of Jalpaiguri Sadar hospital must be adequately punished
· The state government should ensure that all outstanding dues of the labourers are paid immediately. It should ensure that not a single worker is retrenched and they get all their unpaid provident fund and gratuity.
· Extend all medical facilities including improve infrastructure of primary health center, appoint qualified resident doctor, ensure supply of life saving medicine and provide ambulance
service for serious patients.
· Bring tea garden workers under National Food Security Act (NFSA) and provide standard quality food grain.
· Bring casual workers, who are working at the garden for years, under food security act and give them access to medical facilities and revised their wages.
· Provide facilities according to the Tea Plantation Act 1951, including basic health care, ensure food security, housing and education facilities, electricity, drinking water etc.
· Most of the tea workers in the tea garden are Adivasis or Dalits; recognize all Adivasis workers of said tea garden as Scheduled Tribes and provide all statutory benefits.
· Declare all tea garden workers as living under Below Poverty Line, until they are included in Minimum Wages Act, and grant them all the facilities and benefits due to those classified under BPL sections.
Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha
National Convenor (PACTI)
Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity