Dhaka Bureau :-Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has pledged to build houses for tea estate workers, a marginalised group whose daily wage was recently increased by Tk 50 to Tk 170 amid protests.
Thousands of workers in four districts and their families cheered as Hasina made the promise after listening to their ordeals via video conferencing on Saturday. “I know that an address changes life. I will, of course, provide housing,” she said.
Hasina showed she was wearing bangles given to her by the tea workers as a gift. “I’ve never received such an honour. I’m wearing the bangles because you have spent your savings on these.”
Besides a pay rise, the tea workers have been demanding the ownership of the land they have been living on through a 175-year family lineage. Following the law, the residents of the areas surrounding the tea gardens have won ownership of the land they are living on, but no such luck for these workers despite their hard labour and active contribution to the economy.
During the meeting with Hasina, they also demanded an increase in their maternity leave, medical and ambulance services and higher education for their children.
Hasina said she would look into the demands. “My father [Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman] liberated the country for the hardworking farmers and workers. I can’t accept that they will live in misery.”
“My father gave them voting rights. They can’t remain landless. I will arrange a house for every family.”
She hoped the owners would take care of the workers as they promised in the meeting with her.
The prime minister said she would discuss with the education ministry whether the schools at tea gardens can be nationalised.
“And the maternity leave should be six months. Tea workers should also get gratuity. I will check why they [owners] are not granting these.”
After a worker said they get only flour as ration, she said the government would work to ensure their food security.
She thanked the workers for keeping trust in her. “It can’t be that the country will develop but a group of people will remain underprivileged.”