PRESS STATEMENT ON MUNNAR STRUGGLE
Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS), West Bengal celebrates the victory of the epic struggle by the women workers of Kannan Devan Hills Plantation Company (P) Ltd, KDPH (formerly Tata Tea) of Munnar in Kerala for higher bonus (equal to one paid last year) and wages equal to men who are paid more for lighter work.
KDPH, technically under the workers, who supposedly hold sixty percent of the share and have namesake representation of two in the Board of Directors and are only called for the meetings for formality sake, remains a Tata Group company for all practical purpose.
KDPH sprawling in around one and a half lakh of acres, pays the lease rent of Rs.3000/- for nearly one and a half century, though the plantation has changed many hands from John Daniel Munroeto to Tata Group. Like all other tea plantations, be it in Assam, west Bengal, southern or in northwestern part of the country, is a sordid tale of colonial slavery. Uninhabitable dwellings, food just enough to survive, nearly absent medical facilities and schooling till class IV keep the impoverished, largely illiterate population, living in the margins.
The struggle of women workers predominantly in more than 10,000 work- forces, which kept the highly patriarchal trade unions and politicians at bay, highlights their surrendering/compromising attitude and betrayal. The struggle forces us to reflect on the manner in which the mainstream development and politics shut its eyes to the reality of women labourers, who are even more over-worked and under paid and how the gender of the workers in the new industries is purposely ignored.
WSS – WB hopes the struggle of women workers of KDPH will be an eye opener to trade unions and encourages more and more women workers and land less poor who serve the big capital come together by interpreting the politics of public action infusing a new life of green blood into the nearly – dead politics of welfare.