Published:  12:16 AM, 13 January 2022

A Cup of Morning Tea: The Sweat of a Female Worker


A Cup of Morning Tea: The Sweat of a Female Worker
Wanting a warm cup, our stories wind up. Today we will discuss about the warmth of those hand, how they make two leaves of a bud fresh tea.

Karima's 40-year-old family has been working in the tea garden for three generations. Growing up in Karimpur Tea Garden in Moulvibazar since birth, Karima has been working in the tea garden. Karima thought that maybe she will have to go through hardships for the rest of his life. There is no other way to do it. And in this way thousands of people in the tea garden like Karima live their lives. But with the advent of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's 10 initiatives and the touch of digital Bangladesh, the quality of life of these distressed people continues to improve.

A permanent research office named Pakistan Tea Research Station (PTRS) was established at Srimangal on 28 February 1957 for the overall development of the tea industry. After independence in 1971, the institute was first renamed as Bangladesh Tea Research Station (BTRS) and in 1973 it was upgraded to Bangladesh Tea Research Institute (BTRI) as a full fledged institute.

National Tea Day was celebrated on June 4, 2021 for the first time. The slogan of the National Tea Day celebrated for the first time is 'Promise of Mujib Year, expansion of tea industry'. The contribution of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in the development of tea industry in Bangladesh is unforgettable. He was the Chairman of the Tea Board from 1957-1958. He was the first Bengali chairman of the Tea Board. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman granted citizenship and voting rights to tea workers in independent Bangladesh. In addition, Bangabandhu introduced the Contributory Provident Fund for the officers and employees of the Tea Board through the amendment of the Tea Act, which is still in force.

Scrumptious tea is made from two leaves of a tea tree. At one time, there were only tea gardens in Sylhet, the country of 'two leaves and one bud', but according to the data of 2020, the total number of tea gardens in the country is 251. There are 91 tea gardens in Maulovi Bazar, 25 in Hobigonj, 21 in Chittagong, 19 in Sylhet, 6 in Panchagarh, 2 in Rangamati and 1 in Thakurgaon. Our country produces 3% of the world's tea, which provides employment to 4 million people. Tea has been playing a very important role in the national economy. The annual production of tea in Bangladesh is about 96.07 million kg. According to a report published by the London-based International Tea Committee, Bangladesh is the ninth largest tea producer in the world. Tea is exported from Bangladesh to 25 countries of the world including Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.

The current chairman of the tea board, Major General. Zahirul Islam said the tea industry has come a long way in the 50 years of independence. So far, 21 high yielding varieties of clones have been released. In addition, two more clones of drought tolerant and improved yields have also been released.

The current age of the tea industry is 178 years. The tea industry has a long history of ups and downs. Various initiatives have been taken at different times for its development. The first tea plantation was started in 1828. The first tea plantation was planted in 1840 at the present Chittagong Club. The first commercial cultivation of tea started in Sylhet in 1854. In that year Malnichhara tea garden was established on the outskirts of Sylhet city. Tea has been established as an agro-industry in the country since then.

Basically those who are directly involved in tea production are called tea workers. The number of women workers in making tea leaves is more. And male workers are usually involved in garden maintenance, planting saplings, cutting down trees in the off-season, guarding the garden, fencing, etc.
The tea industry and women tea workers complement each other. According to the tea industry, female workers are more efficient than male workers in extracting two buds from a tea tree. They are much more capable of extracting buds from tea trees. Therefore, women workers have been playing a much more effective role in the development and advancement of the tea industry.

The total population of 251 tea gardens in Bangladesh, including main gardens and outpost gardens, is over seven lakhs. Out of 251 tea gardens, 163 are main gardens and 88 are outpost gardens. Tea gardens which have tea processing factories are termed as main gardens and non-factory tea gardens are termed as outpost gardens. Out of the population of more than seven lakh tea gardens, there are more than one and a half lakh permanent workers. Of these, only half a lakh are women workers. At least two and a half lakh temporary and permanent workers are working in the tea industry.

 Among them there are lakhs of permanent and temporary women workers. Among these women workers are workers of 'A', 'B' and 'C' categories. They are paid on a daily attendance (salary) category basis. A 'A' category worker received Rs. 102 daily. Garden activities are closed on Sundays of the week. As such, the weekly attendance of a tea worker is only 612 rupees. The month stands at two thousand 448 rupees. Although it is very difficult for the tea workers to support their families with such a low salary, the women tea workers are still contributing to the development and progress of the tea industry.

It is learned that women tea workers engaged in the tea industry go out for daily work by 9 am. They go out before 9 am to pick tea leaves from the dilapidated huts of the tea garden workers' colony and pick tea leaves in different sections of the tea garden till 4 pm. Natural disasters, storms and rains can do nothing to hinder their work. Ignoring all natural disasters, they work on a daily basis. They are given 30 minutes off for lunch between 8 hours of tea picking. At this time they sat under the shade tree of the tea garden and had their lunch. Most of the time on their lunch list is dried bread made with flour. Apart from this, they prepare a kind of mashed food with young tea leaves, raw chillies, onions and salt and eat it. Tea leaves are picked up in the tea section from 9 am to 4 pm or after picking the leaves, the tea leaves are taken to the section's leaf house for measurement. When the tea leaves were measured, the women tea workers returned home after paying their dues to Tila Babu.

Government facilities have reached a lot in the tea garden. More needs to be reached. Although women earn in the tea garden, in many cases they are still far behind. Although the empowerment of women is 30 to 33 percent in the Panchayats and Central Committees of the Tea Workers Union, there are still many shortcomings, but the present government has brought timely changes in various ordinances and activities.

The Tea Garden Workers Ordinance, issued in 1962, is still being amended. To ensure that tea workers enjoy all civic amenities and do not face any kind of family, social and economic inequality, the government will take steps to formulate and implement a timely policy to implement 'Tea Workers' Living Quality Improvement Program' under social security measures. Has done.

In 2012, 100% of the tea garden workers were brought under sanitary. Drinking water has been provided for them. Arrangements have been made to draw water through deep tubewell and purify it and supply it to the water line. Two shelters have been set up in the garden to take shelter of the storm. Paved stairs have been provided so that it is easy to get up and down and it takes less time to go to work and it is easier to get there.

The life of the workers here is now arranged like the enchanting view of the tea gardens on the small and big hills in the greenery. Due to the far-sighted decision and special initiative of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the progress of tea industry has been remarkable even in these difficult times of Corona. Both production and exports have increased during the Corona period. The touch of modernity has also come in the life of tea-workers, their standard of living has increased.

According to various sources, the Prime Minister directed to continue the production of tea gardens in Corona epidemic. Because if you don't pick the leaves from the tea tree every day, the leaves get damaged. The trees also grow. Above all, the whole garden is in danger of being ruined. Tea production has not stopped even for a day as per the instructions of the Prime Minister. As a result, just as industrial production was good, tea workers did not lose their jobs in Corona, nor did their livelihoods fall into crisis. But at the same time, tea production in India was stopped for more than a month. And as tea production has stopped, many gardens have been destroyed and trees have to be cut down. The loss of tea workers has been huge.

Bhupen Hazarika's famous song 'Ekti Kuri Dooti Paata, Ratanpur Bagichaya' is really on track. And that is why thousands of tea workers like Karima are seeing new light of life, new way of life. A variety of mind-blowing teas, the development of which, along with government investment in the tea sector, long-term plans for various private initiatives are very promising for tea workers. Tea-producing countries need to lend a helping hand to donor countries so that the industry does not fall prey to global warming, so that the industry can further develop its economy with a smile on its face. And with this, the development of the life of the tea workers will be captured, the country will be happy with their happiness, they will laugh with their laughter.

Afroza Nice Rima is a Senior Information Officer, PID,Bangladesh Secretariat , Dhaka.

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