Received from Walk Free, the anti slavery charity.
“Are you Somila Tanti from Sonitput?” She nods. “Then you are free.”1
The photo below says it all really. It captures the moment a father is reunited with the teenage daughter he had given up hope of ever seeing again. The child he believed would forever be trapped as a domestic slave in Delhi. Unfortunately, Somila’s experience is not uncommon. She is only one of countless girls trafficked into a life of modern slavery from the tea plantations of Assam, India.
So how do these girls become trapped? 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 traffickers2.
The long answer looks like this:
- Tata Global Beverages (owner of Tetley Tea) is the biggest shareholder of a company called Amalgamated Plantations (APPL) which manages tea plantations in Assam, India3.
- 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 details4.
- The minimum wage on the tea plantations in Assam is industry wide and set by a tripartite agreement, but reports indicate that workers are paid 94 rupees ($1.54USD) a day, a little over half the legal wage for an unskilled worker in Assam.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 no5.
- 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.
As the biggest single shareholder, if Tata Global Beverages 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 the region.
We know that right now, Tata is listening. Tell Tata Global Beverages, parent company of Tetley Tea to help fight human trafficking on tea plantations in Assam, India.
Unfortunately, the problem of human trafficking in Assam is not new. But right now we do have a window of opportunity to act and call for change. Due to growing global media coverage, Tata is feeling the heat.
A couple of days ago, they agreed to conduct an audit on the living and working conditions in the APPL tea plantations. This is a good first step, but we’re asking Tata to do more:
- Publish the Tata Global Beverages Code of Conduct. Make public a code of conduct which ensures zero tolerance for modern slavery and includes measures for effective remediation when modern slavery is found.
- Ensure that plantation workers are paid a full cash living wage and are able to opt out of investment schemes, across all plantations. Pay should be backdated accordingly.
- Establish an independent grievance mechanism to enable workers to report violation of their rights, both individually and collectively, as verification that the code is being implemented.
Thank you in advance for taking action. If you have a moment, please forward on to three of your friends to triple your impact.
Debra, Mich, Kamini, Andrew, Kate, Sarah and the Walk Free Team
P.S. 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 labour 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.
3 Tata Global Beverages own a 49.66% share in Amalgamated Plantations –