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From 1955 - A tough journey ahead

 

INAUGURAL SPEECH DELIVERED

BY


LATE OMEO KUMAR DAS
FOUNDER OF A.T.P.P.F. & P.F. SCHEME, ASSAM

ON THE OCCASION OF INAUGURATION OF THE ASSAM
TEA PLANTATIONS
PROVIDENT FUND SCHEME

ON 12th SEPTEMBER 1955


Chief Minister, Colleagues and Gentlemen,

We have assembled here to cele­brate the inauguration of the Tea Plantations Provident . Fund Scheme which indeed, as our Chief Minister has said, is a landmark in the history of the plantation industry in Assam. It will be interesting to state here the successive stages through which the present legislation passed and our efforts which have ultimately brought the Scheme into force.


As early as 1951, when Minimum Wages for plantation workers were fixed, it was decided to raise the daily wages of workers by a few annas. During those days, consumer goods were scarce and it was apprehended that the increased in­come might not be fruitfully utilised. A Scheme was eventually drawn up by my Department where­by a portion of the increased income could be compulsorily saved and a fund thus built up On which the worker could fall back upon during lean days. As you are aware, a Bill to that effect was passed by the Assam Legislative, Assembly. Soon after a great depression overtook the Industry during 1952-53 and we had to call for sacrifice from the labour. Unpopular as it was with the labour we decided to drop the savings Scheme. From 1954, the Industry returned to prosperity but the crisis left the lesson of utter financial helplessness of the workers during the period of the lay-off and the consequential social insecurity to which workers were exposed. This led my Department to examine the question in a wider context and the idea of establishing a contribu­tory provident fund was discussed in various meetings of Assam Stand­ing Labour Committee on planta­tions. Ultimately, this contributory Provident Fund was drawn up. The Scheme Visualises an equal contribu­tion of one anna in the rupee of the wages earned from the both the labourers and managements. The Scheme, framed under section 3 of the Act, which our Chief Minister has .inaugurated just now, was also discussed in various meetings of the Assam Standing Labour Committee on Plantations and I take the oppor­tunity of thankingthe representatives of both Labour and Industry for their willing co-operation in accept­ing the principles of the Scheme.


From a perusal of the Scheme, you will see that its administration has been made as democratic as possible; each tea estate will have a Primary Committee with representa­tives of the workers and employers who will have a hand in the admin­istration of the Fund at the garden level. At the top, the over-all administration is vested in the Board of Trustees which is tripartite in constitution. While Government will render all possible assistance, this has been made almost a self-governing body. In actual working of the Scheme therefore, there will be about 1000 Primary Committees guided by a Board of Trustees. The magnitude of the Scheme can be gauged from the fact that at present it will cover about 4.5 lakhs of workers with an annual contribution of more than 2 crores of rupees. It is the largest Scheme of social welfare in India for any single industry and it is indeed a great pleasure for me to-day to witness its inauguration.


Gentlemen, it will not be out of place to mention here the desperate position to which labourers were put hitherto on retirement: The labourers had little to fall back upon on retirement and indeed could not look forward to any hope in their old age. They could hardly think of well-earned rest in their old age. Implementation of the Plantation Labour Act will go a long way to raise the standard of living of the workers and the implementation of this scheme will ensure them a means for enjoying some leisure in their old age. The Scheme is, there­fore, one of the most useful social security measures ever undertaken in so large a scale in any State in India.
The success and smooth working of the Scheme depends considerably on the co-operation of the employees and Manager from whom, I am confident, such co-operation will be available spontaneously as in the past.

 

INAUGURAL SPEECH DELIVERED

BY


LATE BISHNURAM MEDHI
CHIEF MINISTER, ASSAM

ON THE OCCASION OF INAUGURATION OF THE ASSAM
TEA PLANTATIONS
PROVIDENT FUND SCHEME

ON 12th SEPTEMBER 1955

 

Friends,
It is a great pleasure for me and my colleagues that we are to-day assembled here to lay the founda­tion for the first comprehensive social security measure for the plan­tation labourers in the State which constitute about 12 per cent, of our total • population. It is indeed a landmark in the history of our social welfare legislation. I take pride in saying that our present legislation is the culmination of our own efforts in this direction begin­ning from the year 1951.


Hitherto tea garden labourers after years of services could scarcely look forward to any savings to fall back upon in their old age.and were often forced to become objects of charity. It was the generosity of the employers to provide them with a paltry pension or to engage them in light jobs. The age of retirement was indeterminate and for the majo­rity, the destiny was to work till, by death, they were removed. Our policy now is to so shape things that labourers may enjoy a status in keeping, with their dignity as free citizens in a democratic country.


The present legislation has pro­vided opportunity to contribute a portion of their earnings which will be returned to them augmented two­fold at the time of retirement. Compared to the future benefit, the present hardship, if any, should be gladly accepted. I am told that even without any legislation quite a number of labourers are foresighted enough to save a part of their earn­ings as a reserve against future risks. I am quite sure that our legislation will help foster the habit of thrift among labourers and also act as an incentive to earn more by more diligent efforts.. I have no intention here to be little the contributions which the plantation labour have made to the growth of our economy. But I feel that there is scope for further efforts and still bigger contributions, and I firmly believe that the future of our economy and the success of our plan depend to a very great extent on how this scope is utilised. From another point of view also, this saving on the part of labourers has become essential. It will augment our national resources and help us in financing the 2nd Five-Year Plan. Not only labour but all sections of the population will be called upon for sacrifice according to their ability to build up our country so that on our toils, we lay the foundation stone for auguring a happy future.


The contribution to the Provident Fund naturally imposes a burden on the Industry but this bur­den indirectly assists the Industry itself by fostering cordial employer --labour relations. A happy and contented labour force is the great­est asset to the industry and no employer, I am sure, will grudge this little burden which the Act imposes. Moreover we are to-day progressing towards a socialistic pat­tern of society. We are therefore in duty bound to evolve all measures which lead us in that direction without impairing the productive effi­ciency of the economy.


You are no doubt aware of the prolonged strike in the Dooars and Terai tea estates involving lakhs of labourers. One of their major de­mands was the implementation or a Provident Fund Scheme. I am glad that the Industrial Committee on plantations has now decided to ex­tend the Employees Provident Fund Act to the plantation industry. The lead already shown by our Statewas appreciated by all sections of the Industrial Committee on planta­tions in their recent conference at Delhi and a decision was taken that the Provident Fund Scheme should be implemented for the rest of the plantation industry. It is a matter of great pride to all of us assembled here that Assam has been able to take the lead in such an important mat­ter. We are therefore launching the scheme under very happy auspices. The success of the scheme and its good working will depend on the fullest co-operation between the major participants, namely, the em­ployers and labour. May I hope that at no stage this co-operation will be lacking. I have every confi­dence that the scheme will prove a success and its implementation will greatly assist development of this State in more than one ways. I am very happy today to inaugurate the Tea Plantation Provident Fund Scheme.

 

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