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Inside Tata-World Bank Tea Plantations

The World Bank's Broken Promises

Amalgamated Plantations Private Limited (or APPL) is India’s second largest tea producer. Over 155,000 tea workers live and work on APPL’s 25 tea plantations in the north-east Indian states of Assam and West Bengal. APPL came into being in 2007 when Tata Tea (now Tata Global Beverages) decided to divest from its plantation business. In 2009, the World Bank Group invested in APPL through a US$7.8 million investment. With a mandate to reduce poverty, the World Bank planned to empower tea workers by improving their living and working conditions, and providing them with ownership of the company. In theory, if workers became shareholders of APPL, they would gain decision-making power, increase their earnings, and be lifted out of poverty.

 

In November 2016, a report released by the World Bank Group’s accountability watchdog, known as the “CAO” (Compliance Advisor Ombudsman) found that this plan had failed. The watchdog found that living and working conditions were sub-standard, that wages do not protect the health of workers, and that APPL workers were not given proper information about their rights as shareholders. The World Bank Group was supposed to create an action plan that would directly, and in a timely fashion, address the watchdog’s findings. Unfortunately, the Bank ignored most of the findings and endorsed a limited action plan, called “Project Unnati” – “progress”in Hindi – which only addresses a smaller subset of issues. Project Unnati was agreed upon by Tata Global Beverages and APPL in 2014 after the former commissioned an audit of the plantations.

 

In July 2017, Team AccountabiliTEA met with workers from three APPL plantations in Assam to verify whether the limited promises under Project Unnati were being fulfilled. The exposé below – called Project AccountabiliTEA – documents, through photographic evidence, that the World Bank has broken its promises yet again. Workers on APPL plantations are continuing to face oppressive living conditions, unfair wages and the curtailment of fundamental freedoms.

 

Today, the workers need your support to carry their voices to those in power. Raise your voice to demand accountabiliTEA for workers in Assam and end exploitation on Assam’s tea plantations!

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YEARS OF EXPLOITATION

Do you relish a cup of tea when you wake up in the morning? Did you know that the tea you are drinking could be produced by workers who suffer exploitative conditions?

 

In Assam, the world’s largest tea growing region, there are nearly 1 million tea plantation workers and their families who depend on a meagre cash wage of 126 Rupees a day, that is less than 2 British pounds and lower than the minimum wage mandated by law. In addition, they live in appalling conditions with poor access to basic services like water, health and sanitation, which expose them to malnutrition, disease, and preventable deaths. These conditions are common across most tea plantations in Assam, and result in the region holding India’s highest maternal mortality rate and one of the highest rates of infant mortality.

 

Tea workers in Assam mostly belong to adivasi or indigenous communities forcibly brought from central India over 150 years ago under British rule. Ever since, workers have been entrapped in a cycle of servitude for generations, depending on their employer for almost every aspect of their lives.

 

You can help to break this cycle! Bring digniTEA to those who bring you tea!

CAO REPORT TIMELINE

2009 Good Intentions

The World Bank's private sector arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) invests in Amalgamated Plantations Private Limited (APPL), formerly owned by Tata Tea Limited (now Tata Global Beverages Limited), with a view to implementing a sustainable “worker-shareholder” model.

2010 The Violations

Report titled In Cold Blood: Death by Poison, Death by Bullets published on human rights violations on Tata/Tetley controlled tea estate in Assam, India.

Click to Read

2013 First Action

Community organisations, PAJHRA, PAD, and DBSS file a complaint to the World Bank Group’s Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (“CAO”) on behalf of tea garden workers in Assam, India.

Click to Read

2013 Following Up

The CAO visits Assam and meets with workers, NGOs, and APPL representatives. In November, 2013, the CAO completes their assessment report, and the case is transferred to the Compliance function.

Click to Read

2014 Further Study

Columbia Law School Institute for Human Rights releases "The More Things Change…”: The World Bank, Tata and Enduring Abuses on India’s Tea Plantations," an extensive study of labor and human rights violations on APPL plantations. Responses from the IFC and APPL are available.

Click to Read

2014 More Detail

Complainants submit a supplement to their original complaint, outlining APPL violations of IFC standards, domestic and international law to the CAO in advance of their investigation.

Click to Read

2014 Investigations Begin

CAO releases their appraisal report and terms of reference, authorising a full investigation into IFC’s environmental and social performance with respect to the APPL investment.

Click to Read

2015 First Step for Rights

The Government of Assam proposes to revise the minimum daily wage of tea workers to Rs.177, consisting of a cash wage of Rs.143 and other benefits, however tea plantation companies file litigation in the Guwahati High Court to prevent the State Government from doing so.

Click to Read

2015 Field Work

CAO Compliance team conducts a field visit to APPL plantations, including meetings with workers and management.

2015 BBC Investigates

BBC News-Radio 4 joint investigation finds abysmal living and working conditions on certain tea plantations in Assam.

Click to Read and Watch

2015 More Failures

Complainants submit additional information outlining the IFC’s failures to meet due diligence and supervisory obligations. The letter contains several enclosures, which are available here.

Click to Read

2016 Submission

CAO sends final investigation report to the IFC for official response.

2016 Final CAO Report

CAO releases its final investigation report and the IFC's response to its investigation.
Click here to read the CAO report.
Click here to read the IFC's response.

CAO Website

Tata Tea case page on the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman

2015 Additional Info Submission

Complainants submit additional information outlining the IFC’s failures to meet due diligence and supervisory obligations

2014 Complaint Supplement

Complainants submit a supplement to their original complaint, outlining APPL violations of IFC standards, domestic and international law to the CAO in advance of their investigation.

2013 Community Complaint

Community organisations, PAJHRA, PAD, and DBSS file a complaint to the World Bank Group’s Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (“CAO”) on behalf of tea garden workers in Assam, India.

2016 Management Response

IFC Management Response to the CAO Compliance Investigation Report on IFC's Investment in APPL

2016 CAO Report

CAO Investigation of IFC Environmental and Social Performance in relation to APPL

2016 COMMUNIQUÉ

Communique from the Office of CAO on the release of it's investigation report into IFC investments in APPL

2015 Complaint Enclosures

Complainants full letter including all enclosures

2014 CAO Appraisal Report

CAO releases their appraisal report and terms of reference, authorising a full investigation into IFC’s environmental and social performance with respect to the APPL investment.

2014 CAO Terms of Reference

CAO releases their appraisal report and terms of reference, authorising a full investigation into IFC’s environmental and social performance with respect to the APPL investment.

2016

CAO Report

2014 CAO Terms of Reference

CAO releases their appraisal report and terms of reference, authorising a full investigation into IFC’s environmental and social performance with respect to the APPL investment.

2010 In Cold Blood

Report titled In Cold Blood: Death by Poison, Death by Bullets published on human rights violations on Tata/Tetley controlled tea estate in Assam, India.

2014 CAO Appraisal Report

CAO releases their appraisal report and terms of reference, authorising a full investigation into IFC’s environmental and social performance with respect to the APPL investment.

2014 Columbia Law School Report

Columbia Law School Institute for Human Rights releases “The More Things Change…”: The World Bank, Tata and Enduring Abuses on India’s Tea Plantations,” an extensive study of labor and human rights violations on APPL plantations.

history


 

Select Fullscreen to view in detail and Arrow Keys to Navigate

 

2015 BBC Investigation

BBC News-Radio 4 joint investigation finds abysmal living and working conditions on certain tea plantations in Assam.

Struggle for Life: Malnutrition

Because of poor living conditions and poverty-level wages, tea workers and their families are severely malnourished. Anemia, a condition resulting from malnutrition, is the leading cause of maternal mortality in India. Malnutrition also inhibits children’s growth and significantly endangers their lives. 95% of women working in the tea gardens are anemic and only 2 of out 14 meals consumed in a week by Adivasi women workers are nutritional.

Honoring the Women Who Labour

A triptych film on the Adivasi mothers of yesterday and today

2013 The Guardian

How poverty wages for tea pickers fuel India's trade in child slavery

NAZDEEK: Bringing Justice Close to Assam's Tea Garden workers

For the last two years, Nazdeek has been working in Assam along with grassroots organisations to bring justice to the tea garden workers. Watch this overview on our efforts and achievements. For more info: www.nazdeek.org

Struggle for Life: Isolation

Plantations were designed as isolated enclaves, secluded from Assam’s mainstream in a system designed to maintain control and breed profit. A near unbreakable cycle of birth and death persists today, with generations of workers beginning and ending their lives within the plantation’s four walls.

Struggle for Life: Maternal Health

India has one of the highest number of preventable maternal deaths in the world. Systemic discrimination against women, particularly those from indigenous and dalit communities, drive India’s high maternal mortality rate. Assam leads the country with the highest Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR). 77 percent of maternal deaths in Assam are in the tea gardens. Social isolation in the tea gardens leave many women unable to access rural maternal health and nutrition resources. Under-equipped and unhygienic healthcare facilities place the lives of every mother and newborn at risk during pregnancy and childbirth.

Struggle for Life: Poor Working Conditions

Despite laws protecting the labour rights of female workers, women are paid below the minimum wage (earn Rs 126 v minimum wage of Rs 240) and lack access to latrines, safe drinking water and crèches to care for their children during work hours. Female labourers work under strenuous conditions, required to pluck 24 kgs of tea a day with little or no breaks. If they don’t meet their daily targets, their wage is reduced.

NAZDEEK: Modern day feudalism in Assam

Modern day feudalism persists today in Assam's tea gardens, where workers face labor and human rights violations at the hands of tea companies. To learn more and support our work visit: www.nazdeek.org For more info: www.nazdeek.org

NEWS ARTICLES

2017

2016

05 December 2016

ESCER-NET: Nazdeek and Accountability Council demand accountability for Assam tea workers

12 November 2016

BBC News – Indian tea workers’ conditions remain very poor

11 November 2016

Hindustan Times – Tata Tea project failed to protect Indian staff

11 November 2016

The Irrawaddy – Tata Tea Project Fails to Protect Indian Workers

10 November 2016

Reuters: World Bank probe into Tata tea project finds it failed to protect Indian workers

10 November 2016

Economic Times – World Bank probe into Tata Tea project finds it failed to protect workers

09 November 2016

Times of India – Assam tea company denying benefits to workers

08 November 2016

Counterview : World Bank auditor’s concern over workers’ living conditions, wages and child labour in tea gardens

08 November 2016

Human Rights Watch: World Bank Group: India Tea Investment Tramples Rights

08 November 2016

Live Mint – IFC didn’t follow due process while investing in APPL: World Bank

07 November 2016

Huffpost: World Bank Finds Evidence Of Labour Abuse On Assam Tea Plantations It Owns With The Tatas

07 November 2016

The Assam Tribune – World Bank, Tata group come under scanner

25 October 2016

Dublin Inquirer – Where do Barry’s Tea and Lyons Get Their Tea From?

04 October 2016

Open Democracy – World Bank investment on Assam’s tea plantations: hearing the voices of workers?

11 August 2016

Nikkei Asian Review – World Bank unit’s wage scandal at Tata tea estates a lesson in due diligence

23 July 2016

Scroll – Young mothers are dying in Assam’s tea gardens at a rate higher than anywhere in India

15 July 2016

BBC – The dark history behind India and the UK’s favourite drink

18 May 2016

Open Democracy – From colonials to corporates: maternal mortality in Assam’s tea gardens

05 April 2016

The BMJ – Assam: India’s state with the highest maternal mortality

04 April 2016

Hindustan Times – Assam polls: Plight of tea garden workers continues despite promises

29 March 2016

First Post – Assam polls 2016: BJP must win trust before votes to overthrow Congress in tea gardens

27 March 2016

NDTV – PM Modi ‘Bulldozed’ Rights Of Tea Garden Workers In Assam

18 February 2016

Eco-Business: World Bank probes Tata tea project over worker abuse in India

07 February 2016

NDTV – Assam Tea Workers Await Tribal Status As Congress, BJP Fight For Their Vote

22 January 2016

Live Mint – Brewing change in Indian tea

14 January 2016

The Guardian – Supply chain audits fail to detect abuses, says report

14 January 2016

BBC – UK tea brands drop Indian supplier over work conditions

2015

2014/13

LOCAL NEWS


TEA GARDEN FACTS
77%
Assam Maternal Deaths that happen in the Tea Plantations
17%
World's Tea Supply that comes from Assam
95%
Women in the Tea Plantations who are Anaemic
0%
0.16% Tea Workers Profit when compared to the rest of Tea Industry
14%
Meals a week eaten by female workers that are nutritional
100%
Workers who are being Paid Below Minimum Wage
Bring digniTEA to those who bring you tea

Tea workers in Assam depend on the tea industry as their sole source of livelihood. Don’t abandon them by boycotting Assam tea. Instead, continue to proudly drink Assam tea but use your voice to demand change. Amalgamated Plantations Private Limited (APPL) is owned by the Tata Group and the World Bank. We urge you to reach out to them to demand living wages, decent housing, adequate health care and better education for workers.

 

Show your support by signing this Care2 petition and tweeting (you can use the suggested tweets below)!

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ABOUT US
NAZDEEK

Nazdeek is a legal empowerment organization dedicated to bringing access to justice closer to marginalized communities in India. Nazdeek’s model fuses grassroots legal education, community monitoring of service delivery, use of legal remedies, and strategic advocacy to advance socio-economic rights with a focus on maternal health, nutrition, housing and labor in Delhi and Assam.

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PAJHRA

Promotion and Advancement of Justice, Harmony and Rights of Adivasis (PAJHRA) is an initiative of Adivasis of Assam from all walks of life. In the Adivasia (Sadri) language, PAJHRA, means ‘Life Spring’. As an organisation, PAJHRA tries to steer Adivasis towards self development by networking and collaborating with Adivasi community members and organizations including student organizations, women’s organizations, literary bodies and different Adivasi NGOs. PAJHRA also relates and partners with non-Adivasi NGOs, church development agencies, human rights bodies and many regional and national development agencies.

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ACCOUNTABILITY COUNSEL

Accountability Counsel amplifies the voices of local communities around the world to help protect their human rights and environment. As advocates for people harmed by internationally-financed projects, Accountability Counsel assists communities to use little-known international complaint offices tied to projects that cause harm. Accountability Counsel’s work in South Asia has included supporting community-led complaints in Nepal, India, and Bangladesh.

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PAD

People’s Action for Development (PAD) is an Assam-based Adivasi-led organisation that seeks to empower marginalized Adivasis and tribal people by organizing them into self help groups, building their capacity, and enabling them to utilize available resources. PAD focusses on issues relating to rights, livelihood, disaster management, governance, education, health, children, youth and women.

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CONTACT US