Tata Tea project failed to pro­tect In­dian staff: WB

Hindustan Times (Delhi) - - Front Page - Reuters let­ters@hin­dus­tan­times.com

NEWDELHI: A World Bank in­ves­ti­ga­tion into a tea plan­ta­tion project in In­dia that it jointly fi­nances with tea gi­ant Tata Global Bev­er­ages has found that it failed to tackle al­leged abuses of im­pov­er­ished work­ers, the group said late on Wed­nes­day.

The In­ter­na­tional Fi­nance Cor­po­ra­tion (IFC), a mem­ber of the World Bank Group, said its ac­count­abil­ity of­fice be­gan a probe into the project, run by Amal­ga­mated Plan­ta­tions Pri­vate Lim­ited (APPL), fol­low­ing re­ports that tea pick­ers were be­ing ex­ploited.

In a state­ment , the IFC said it wel­comed the in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the Com­pli­ance Ad­vi­sor Om­buds­man (CAO) and would work to­wards im­prov­ing con­di­tions for work­ers in plan­ta­tions in In­dia’s As­sam state.

APPL said it was cur­rently im­ple­ment­ing a project fo­cussed on ar­eas such as hous­ing, san­i­ta­tion, med­i­cal fa­cil­i­ties, health and safety and worker en­gage­ment, fol­low­ing an in­de­pen­dent as­sess­ment into con­di­tions its tea es­tates in June 2014. APPL Foun­da­tion was mon­i­tor­ing the project and en­sur­ing that work­ers ben­e­fited from it in the best pos­si­ble way, it added.

APPL was set up in 2009 to ac­quire and man­age tea plan­ta­tions pre­vi­ously owned by Tata Global Bev­er­ages (TGB) —which owns Tet­ley, the sec­ond-largest tea brand in the world.

“Tata Global Bev­er­ages is com­mit­ted to the fair and eth­i­cal treat­ment of peo­ple across its sup­ply chain,” TGB said in an emailed state­ment.

“As a con­cerned share­holder TGB con­tin­ues to sup­port the man­age­ment of APPL to­wards im­prov­ing the con­di­tions of work­ers,” it added.

The IFC’s $7.8-mil­lion in­volve­ment in the $87-mil­lion project was aimed at cre­at­ing over 30,000 per­ma­nent jobs. But com­plaints by char­i­ties and trade unions about ex­ploita­tion and abuse of tea-pick­ers, in­clud­ing long work­ing hours, low wages, lack of free­dom of as­so­ci­a­tion, over-ex­po­sure to pes­ti­cides and poor health and liv­ing con­di­tions — prompted the CAO to launch an in­ves­ti­ga­tion in Fe­bru­ary 2014.

The CAO’s find­ings re­vealed that IFC failed to iden­tify and ad­dress labour, so­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues, in­clud­ing po­ten­tial vi­o­la­tions of In­dian and global law, in­clud­ing those re­lated to hous­ing and wages.


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