“Are you Somila Tanti from Sonitput?” She nods. “Then you are free.”1
This is the moment Somila’s father was reunited with the daughter he believed was forever consigned to a life of domestic servitude in Delhi. Unfortunately, Somila’s experience is not uncommon. She is only one of countless girls trafficked as part of the “Tea Maid Trade” from the tea plantations of Assam, India.
Why is this happening? The short answer* is that workers in Assam are trapped in a unique situation of terrible poverty making them vulnerable to the lure of human traffickers.2
We believe Tata Global Beverages, one of the biggest tea companies in the world, can do something about this. A series of investigations3 have documented trafficking from tea estates owned by Amalgamated Plantations – and Tata is its single biggest shareholder.
If Tata commits to help improve the working conditions of the employees of Amalgamated Plantations, they could play a much needed leading role in ending slavery in Assam, India. Tata has announced that it has commissioned an audit on the living and working conditions in the Amalgamated Plantations tea estates. This is a good first step, but we’re asking Tata to do more.
Call on Tata to play a leading role in ending the “Tea Maid Trade” from the tea plantations of Assam, India.
Note: We want to be really clear — we are not accusing Tata Global Beverages of trafficking girls from Assam to be held in situations of modern slavery. We are, however, concerned that Tata Global Beverages is engaged in a labor scheme via Amalgamated Plantations in Assam that is fuelling unique forms of vulnerability to modern slavery. Of all the possible players, Tata Global Beverages has the power to do the most good in this situation and that is why we are calling on them to engage.
*The long answer looks like this:
- Tata Global Beverages (owner of Tetley Tea) is the biggest shareholder of a company called Amalgamated Plantations which manages tea plantations in Assam, India.
- Several years ago, a program was initiated that aimed to make tea plantation workers part owners in Amalgamated Plantations. In exchange for a portion of their already small wages, they would get shares in the company. Sounds good, right? Sadly, scores of workers report they were coerced to buy shares in Amalgamated Plantations and remain confused about the details.4
- Reports indicate that workers are paid 94 rupees ($1.54 USD) a day, a little over half the legal wage for an unskilled worker in Assam. But there is a price for keeping wages so low, and it is paid by the workers who cannot afford to keep their daughters. When the traffickers come knocking, offering to take the girls away, promising good wages and an exciting new life, they find it hard to say no.5
- Because of the poverty in Assam, trafficking girls is an attractive business for locals. Investigative reports indicate that people in Delhi have bought girls for as little as 4,000 Rupees (or $65 USD).6
global-development/2014/mar/ 02/tea-workers-sold-into- slavery ↩
- http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/video/2014/mar/01/tetley-tea-maids-real-price-cup-tea-video ↩
- http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/video/2014/mar/01/tetley-tea-maids-real-price-cup-tea-video and http://web.law.columbia.edu/
human-rights-institute/ initiatives/global-economy/ tea-plantations/more-things- change ↩
- http://web.law.columbia.edu/human-rights-institute/initiatives/global-economy/tea-plantations/more-things-change ↩
world/2014/mar/01/india-tea- firms-urged-tackle-slave- traffic-plantations ↩
- http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2014/mar/02/tea-workers-sold-into-slavery ↩