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An insight into abjection and deplorability: tea plantation workers in N. Bengal

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By Sreyashi Mazumdar

Darjeelingteagardens

Amid the lush greeneries and vivacious stretch of tea leaves, there is a hidden conundrum making life difficult for the people inhabiting the hilly terrains of North Bengal. Despite being picturesque enough at a mere glance, the complexities veiled behind the flamboyance gives way to heart wrenching problems like ascending number of death cases, malnutrition, human trafficking etc; the root cause behind the surging maliciousness being rampant closure of tea gardens. The ageing tea bushes and plummeting production scale has unleashed all hell on the tea garden workers.

According to an Aljazeera report , more than 100 tea plantations workers had lost their lives in the past one year owing to the closure of tea gardens in the Dooars region of North Bengal.  Social isolation, malnutrition and anemia are some of the pressing concerns of the day, trampling the livelihoods of the people dependent on tea cultivation.

Adhering to the figures given by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), consuming less than 1800 calories a day leads to starvation. A report by a local NGO fleshes out that around 1200 households in the Budapani estate of Jalpaiguri district consume a meager amount of 250 calories a day- the figure being a complete contrast to the aforesaid calories intake per day

Even though there are tea gardens that are still operating, a majority of them- especially the one located in Bundapani, Dheklapara, Redbank, Surendranagar and Dharanipur have testified shutdowns for a considerable time now.

Rising number of deaths among plantation workers

Plucking_tea_in_a_tea_garden_of_Assam

A study of UTWF (United tea workers front) in Dooars shows that around 1000 workers have died in the past one decade.

“The fact is there are more than 100 deaths this year owing to the closure of at least five tea gardens and abject poverty… As their wages are abysmally low, the poor workers or their family members have neither the fat on their bodies nor the balance in their banks to survive,” said Anuradha Talwar, the state advisor to the Supreme Court Commission on the right to food, as quoted by Al Jazaeera.

Owing to the shutdown of tea estates, a large chunk of the population has been left crippled. A majority of these tea workers used to get facilities like housing, electricity, water, ration and health care from the management until the shut downs in the recent past.

“Most people in the gardens suffer from severe anemia…People have no money to buy food,” says Dr. Sabhyasachi Sarkar who works with a local NGO, as quoted in an NDTV report.

The reason behind the large scale shutdown of tea estates in North Bengal is the plummeting scale of production and lack of profit. Further, the descending scale of yield is mainly due to ageing tea bushes.

The workers across the five gardens adversely affected by the perennial problem of closures have often demanded the state government’s intervention in the matter; they want the state government to take over the closed tea gardens; however, the government isn’t interested in doing so.

State Government’s tidbit of a contribution:

Tea_Garden_at_Dooars

 

The government’s apathy towards the precarious condition of the tea plantation workers has further aggravated the situation. “There are no starvation deaths in tea gardens of Bengal,” said the state health minister Chandrima Bhattacharya. She further added that the gloomy situation in North Bengal was due to prolonged malnutrition.

 

Further, despite the government has been trying to recuperate the status of the workers by providing work under the MNREGA schemes, around 30, 000 workers across North Bengal has been suffering from rampant poverty and malnutrition.

“We are in a very bad condition. The government doesn’t really care. We want the government to provide us enough resources as it has become quite impossible for us to make both ends meet. I have lost my 28-year-old son Gogoi to malnutrition. The tea garden where he was working got closed in the year 2003-2004 and after that he was striving hard to meet the needs of the family; however, he met death in the mid way,” laments 65-year-old Tenzin, who was also a tea plantation worker.

Last year, the state government in its attempt at cracking down upon the pervading deplorability of the tea plantation workers had written to the Union minister of state for commerce and industry Niramala Sitharaman asking for a special package for the 3000 tea workers. “Labourers of the five closed tea gardens in North Bengal will be getting Rs. 1500 per month cash subsistence from the government,” said the Chief Minister of the state Mamata Banerjee, as quoted in a report in the Indian Express.

Adhering to the recent development, the state government has passed a bill to set up a West Bengal Tea Plantation Employee’s Welfare Board to look after the well being of the tea garden workers.

Since Mamata Banerjee came to power, she has been talking a lot about poriborton (change), but the abjection borne by the tea plantation workers seem to mock her flagship programme – her dream of rendering a change to the state. However the state government’s recent attempts at curbing the precariousness throw some light upon the poor people inhabiting the devastated areas of North Bengal.

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5 Health Tests That Women Should Undergo

Here are 5 health tests every woman should have in 2020

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women health
he fast-changing lifestyle and juggling career with bringing up children sooner or later begins to take a toll on women's health. Pixabay

BY PUJA GUPTA

Indian women often tend to put their own needs on the backburner, preferring to tend to home and family first. However, the fast-changing lifestyle and juggling career with bringing up children sooner or later begins to take a toll on their health. Many common health problems in women can be prevented or effectively tackled by undergoing testing for the following five health tests, suggested by Dr Kirti Chadha, Sr. Vice President with Metropolis Healthcare Ltd.

Anaemia

Anaemia, the most common blood disorder, is a condition in which a person lacks enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to the body’s tissues or organs. Women are especially at risk of iron-deficiency anaemia because of blood loss from their periods. India carries the highest burden of anaemia despite having an anaemia control programme running for the last 50 years. About 58.6% of children, 53.2% of non-pregnant women and 50.4% of pregnant women in India were found to be anaemic in 2016, as per the National Family Health Survey.

women health
Women are especially at risk of iron-deficiency anaemia because of blood loss from their periods and this affects their health. Pixabay

The normal haemoglobin level for women is 12 gram per decilitre (g/dlL). All women should get tested for anaemia at least once a year. The test will look for the size and colour of red blood cells, haematocrit, haemoglobin and ferritin levels.

Vitamin D Deficiency

Researchers have linked vitamin D deficiency with increased risk of poor bone health and depression in women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). Symptoms include bone pain, muscle weakness and fatigue. Women often do not get enough Vitamin D from their diet or being exposed to sunlight, and end up being deficient. Having optimum levels of vitamin D is very important for overall health and well-being of a person.

The most accurate way to measure how much vitamin D is in your body is the 25-hydroxy vitamin D blood test. A level of 20 nanograms/millilitre to 50 ng/mL is considered adequate for healthy people. A level less than 12 ng/mL indicates vitamin D deficiency.

Calcium Deficiency

As women get older, they become more prone to osteoporosis (reduced density and quality of bone). A good healthy diet is enough to provide all the calcium that our body needs. However, women do not realise they have low calcium levels until they have suffered bone loss or fracture.

Women should undergo a blood test once a year to check for levels of calcium, albumin and ionized or free calcium. Sustained low calcium levels of below 8.8 mg/dL may confirm a diagnosis of calcium deficiency disease (Hypocalcemia).

women health
Many common health problems in women can be prevented or effectively tackled by undergoing testing. Pixabay

Pap Smears and Pelvic Exams

Women should start undergoing these exams every year from the age of 21, or even earlier if they are sexually active. This is important to reduce their risk of cervical cancer, which is the second leading cause of death in women due to cancer. Cervical cancer can be entirely avoided through regular screening.

A pelvic exam will generally include an external visual exam to check for irritation, redness, sores, swelling or other abnormalities, followed by an internal visual exam. A pap smear test is conducted to examine cervical cells and check for any abnormal growth in the uterus and the cervix.

Barring any other problems, women aged 30 and above need a pap smear once every three years if they have had three normal tests in a row.

Mammograms and Breast Exams

All prevention tests in women start early, and so is the case for the exam to check for breast cancer. A manual exam where a doctor tests for lumps and abnormalities is recommended starting around age 20 up to until 40 years.

Also Read- Researchers Develop AI Tool To Detect Mental Health Issues

A mammogram is a screening test for breast cancer and involves applying moderate compression to the breasts so that X-ray images can be captured. Mammograms are done every one or two years beginning at age 40, as recommended by the American Cancer Society. (IANS)