Keep shining that light- a visit to the Tea Gardens of Assam.

The first time I visited the tea gardens of Assam I was confronted with stories which remain etched on my mind and heart. We were in the garden to a run kids clubs to raise awareness about human trafficking. A community meeting had been called for anyone who wished to attend and after we had introduced ourselves and explained what we were doing, the Community Leader asked if anyone had questions.

One by one people stood and their story was translated. They were all more or less the same. They told of their child or brother or sister being taken by an ‘agent’. When we asked what an agent was, they said they were employment or migration agents. They knew who they were, they were their neighbours and sometimes their relatives. They told of being offered money for their children to get an education and work out of the gardens. One even said that when they refused, their two daughters were kidnapped the next night.

Sometimes they had received news for a few months and money sent home. A part of the deception to make people believe they were ok. But eventually they had no further contact. Many had small photos to show us, tattered and faded, some sobbed.

NGOs working in the region believe that these missing children may have been deceived, lured away by false promises of a good job and a better future, and ultimately trafficked into exploitation.

We left the church building and wandered in smaller groups with the people as they showed us the extreme poverty they lived and worked in. Tiny houses where some had lived for generations which they adorned with pride but such adornment could not hide the cracks. We stepped over puddles made by broken pipes mixing drinking water with sewage. They told us of grinding picking quotas, in the stifling heat and humidity that I could hardly move through. No wonder these people were so easily tricked into the web of deception human traffickers weave. We saw workers without protection, spraying pesticides they were obtaining from drums that were leaking, and children working in the processing factory part of the garden. When I asked two of the young girls their age one said 13 and the other said 8. They were not the only ones.

Visiting Assam this time was a case of “where you stand determines what you see.” The view from the tea garden owners is that they are making a difference – clean water supplies, houses being repaired, drainage installed and programs to build resilient communities beginning. They asked us to acknowledge they are a good company and their positive actions. They are indeed taking the first steps. From the local people’s point of view, this is a tiny beginning and only happened because a spotlight was shone on the situation by the rest of the world. They asked us to keep shining that light. We must.

I will never watch an ad for tea in the same way. Now I know what is happening behind the tranquil scenery of this and many other gardens. We must speak out. This has to stop.

Carolyn

Carolyn Kitto, STOP THE TRAFFIK Australia Coordinator reporting back from her time visiting the tea plantations in Assam, India where she also delivered the Walk Free and STOP THE TRAFFIK petition to Tata and APPL.

Find out more about STOP THE TRAFFIK’s Not my cup of tea campaign: www.stopthetraffik.org

Find out more about Walk Free: www.walkfree.org

Walk Free ORG logos revised 27 03 13-09

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24 thoughts on “Keep shining that light- a visit to the Tea Gardens of Assam.

  1. Debemos considerar que aquellas personas que trabajan porque en determinado momento hemos empleado y a las cuales hemos capacitado,no son esclavos de nadie,ellos trabajan porque necesitan hacerlo para poder subsistir,por lo tanto se las debe respetar,dándole la
    importancia que como seres humanos tienen.

  2. Pingback: We took your signature to Tata | haluise

  3. Sasi

    We would like Carolyn Kitto and Walk Free to also visit Tea Gardens in West Bengal, India and share with the world, stories of Modern day slavery and starvation deaths in the Dooars Region, which is highly deplorable.

  4. Grazyna Bonati

    It is very important that we have the opportunity to learn about these situations, otherwise we have no idea of the desperate situations which can drive young people to expose themselves to exploitation, and their families to encourage or condone them, without realising the dangers. Well done and please spread this information as far as possible.

  5. Suzanne L Reuben

    Unbelievable. Can we really drink tea calmly without wondering who stole or lured these innocent children away. Are we really in the 21st century? Each time I read something like this I try to believe it will be the last and that our petition will stop it.
    Great our petitions are working BUT WE MUST PUT PRESSURE ON THE ORGANISATIONS AND TEACH THEM RIGHT FROM WRONG. SHOW THEM WE WILL NOT BUY THEIR PRODUCTS IF THEY CONTINUE TO HARM FAMILIES IN THIS WAY.
    PAY A GOOD WAGE AND GET STAFF WHO WANT TO WORK FOR THEM.

    1. Living wage = a good start. We, all of us, consumers, importers, manufacturers are complicit in this crime if we stay silent.
      It is no longer possible to keep our heads down and our hearts ignorant for our conscience is too well informed.

  6. Our conscience is too well informed. No longer can we keep our heads down and tell our ignorant hearts that this is not our concern. If we do not act now, we are complicit in this crime. We can no longer consume goods produced in unethical ways and pretend that we are not enabling the exploitation of people and resources.

  7. Theresa Martin

    That’s why I only purchase tea which is made in Australia because that sort of treatment does not take place in this country and would not be allowed to. Nevertheless these dear people need our utmost support from the tyranny they are exposed to. Keep up the good work. United we stand.

  8. onesnohs

    It’s reassuring to hear about the progress that you are making in combating slavery; I applaud your efforts. However, I find the crosshatched background used in your blog distracts from its readability. Why don’t you use a plain background as you do for these comments? It’s easier on the eyes.

  9. MIKE MAUNDER

    What I am worried about, is that Tata were surprised that there was the amount of interest in this. We are one world, and for me and a great many others, where one group of people are being distressed, we must all change that. Me, a utopian ? I would not have thought so, but come to think about it, why not ?

  10. Rebeca

    Ojalá cada vez nos sumemos mas personas a estos proyectos que se viven en muchas partes, pues hemos dejado de valorar a las personas, privilegiando los bienes materiales.

  11. AURELIO

    THIS ISN’T PROGRESS ! -. NOT A BEST WORLD ! .- THRU THE LAST YEARS, THE HUMAN BEEN HAS DEMOSTRATED THAT IS EVERY TIME NO HUMAN. , A LONG TIME AGO, A MAN SAID : ” LOVE THY NEIGHBOR LIKE YOURSELF “. ¿ – WHERE TO GO THE WORLD ? .-

  12. Keep helping these people. Nobody should be enslaved in the modern world. Keep the light shining as long as you can as this treatment of humans should be stopped so they can work in a better world. A fair days work for a fair days pay is my motto.

  13. God lives in every human being
    By enslaving and doing any harm to others will give instant returns but in the long term the soul is being ruined you will reap what shall you sow
    Every person on the mother earth is equal
    No one should do any wrong to others. It ruins your karma This is being done by the managers of tea estates to get more workforce and the middleman earns while he tortures other for his profit. The tea company should give direct employment to the workforce so that they themselves get the money in their account instead of middlemen

  14. Samyek

    I have been to numerous tea estates in Assam owned by not just Tata, also other companies. The British raj days life style till continue where the managements lead a rich life style while the workers lead a poor life.The conditions of the workers are worse than the British days. Poor PDS, wages are same as decades ago,dimming health cares, no education,…etc… only what is continuing is freely available of country liquors daily to make the workers intoxicant thereby not able to be conscious.The political parties use them as vote bank.

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