Tea plantation labourers in North Bengal, India, are frequently deprived of their rights and subjected to exploitation by plantation managers as well as government agencies. Plantation managers often fail to provide workers with rights and statutory benefits specified in the Plantation Labour Act, including just wages, medical services and primary education for workers’ children. Government agencies also deny workers their benefits and rights, such as ration cards and access to land ownership.
The result of this apathy and violation of rights is a loss of human dignity and unacceptable living conditions for workers, most of whom are from “Scheduled Tribes” (called “adivasis”).
The Human Life Development and Research Centre (HLDRC), based in Matigara, is a project of the Jesuit Darjeeling Province that addresses these injustices. It accompanies workers both on functioning tea plantations and in so-called closed gardens, which are plantations that have been abandoned due to financial or other problems, leaving workers without livelihoods or income.
Canadian Jesuits International is currently supporting six important initiatives of HLDRC:
- Conducting seminars on socio-economic awareness
- Conducting seminars on legal and women’s issues
- Organizing workshops to train and empower community leaders, women, youth and heads of Self-Help Groups (SHGs)
- Providing training to apply for and obtain the Provident Fund and pensions
- Implementing alternative livelihood opportunities through SHGs
- Providing in-service training for village animators and HLDRC staff
To date, through these initiatives, HLDRC has reached out to approximately 5,000 people in the Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri districts. Work has been carried out on some 15 tea plantations; about 80 community leaders have been trained; hundreds of people have been assisted to obtain official documents such as birth certificates or to access pension plans; and over 30 SHGs have been formed, all but 5 of which are run by women. The SHGs have different focuses, including livestock rearing, crop cultivation, equipment rentals, and tent-making.
HLDRC also carries out research and maintains a database for migrating and missing women, including victims of human trafficking. It coordinates its activities with Jesuits in Social Action (JESA), based in Delhi, and it is an active member of Lok Manch.
HLDRC Director: Fr Pascal Xalxo SJ
Visit HLDRC’s website: https://hldrcsocialcentre.org
Please support the work of HLDRC by making a donation: