Tea garden workers in India’s Assam hit by second wave of COVID

More than 7,000 cases spread across the state’s 403 out of 800 large tea gardens since April, while at least 53 people have died.

Hundreds of workers are reporting sick in Assam’s tea gardens amid an abysmally low rate of vaccination as the state government battles to contain the spread of the virus.

According to figures maintained by Assam’s Labour and Welfare Department, there have been 7,121 COVID-19 cases spread across the state’s 403 out of 800 large tea gardens since April. As many as 53 people have died.

Assam was one of the five states that held a regional election in March and April even as signs that the pandemic was making a comeback were visible in several pockets of India.

As cases started surging in Assam, the authorities announced restrictions in mid-April. On May 11, the state government announced the shutting down of offices in urban and semi-urban areas.

But tea gardens are operational and about a million tea workers continue to go out and work for 205 Indian rupees (less than $3) a day in Brahmaputra Valley and 183 rupees ($2.50) in Barak Valley, after the recent wage hike of 38 rupees (50 cents).

The month of May is picking time for the second flush of tea which would make its way mostly to the international markets. Assam produces more than half of India’s tea.

The industry is already facing a loss of production due to the lockdown in 2020 and a partial drought in early 2021.

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