SC directs 4 states to make interim payment of Rs 127 crores to tea garden workers who had not been paid for 15 years

International Union of Food Agr & Ors V Union Of India & Ors. WRIT PETITION (C) NO. 365 of 2006 In a contempt petition filed by the International Union of Food Association and the Paschim Banga Khet Majdoor Samity, the Supreme Court today made a stunning order directing the state of Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal to make an interim payment of approximately Rs 127 crores to the workers of the tea garden in these states whose legal dues had remained unpaid for over 15 years. Hundreds of the workers had died out of starvation during this period. The central government had submitted that the dues of the workmen was 249 crores in Assam, 27 crores in Kerala, 70 crores in Tamil Nadu, and 30 crores in West Bengal. Accordingly, the Supreme Court directed that each state government would within 60 days make payment equivalent to approximately half the dues outstanding by way of interim relief to the suffering workers and their families. The Supreme Court also summoned all the companies that were running the tea estates. The lists of the tea estates were submitted to the apex court and they were told to appear in the court on the next date of hearing. This decision comes as a huge relief to the over 300,000 tea garden workers who had been living a miserable life for the last two decades. Thousands had died of starvation and the remaining workers in the sick and closed tea gardens were living without ration, drinking water, electricity, schools for their children and medical dispensaries. The first intervention of the Supreme Court had come in 2010 when a bench presided over by Chief Justice SH Kapadia made the following order: “We find that till 2006, this writ petition has been pending, No steps have been taken. The tea estates have been abandoned by the tea companies. The workers are left high and dry. They are living in a pitiable condition. They have not received their dues.” On March 4, a Supreme Court bench comprising SA Bobde and LN Rao insisted that no further delay could be allowed as the workers had suffered for so long and made an order bringing a smile to the faces of the families of the workers.