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Forum for refugee status to victims of religious persecution

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Guwahati: A forum in Assam on Wednesday suggested that the victims of religious persecution in Bangladesh and Pakistan may be given refugee status instead of citizenship.

photo credit: www.assamtimes.org
photo credit: www.assamtimes.org

While saying that the minority communities from Bangladesh and Pakistan, who fled the countries due to religious persecution and entered India may be given refugee status, the citizens’ forum – Patriotic People’s Front, Assam (PPFA) said that the central government should not burden Assam alone with all the asylum seekers.

The political parties and civil society organisations in Assam are opposing the central government’s recent move to exempt the minority communities of Bangladesh and Pakistan from the provisions of rules and order under the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920 and the Foreigners Act, 1946,

The central government’s decision has seemingly stirred a hornet’s nest in Assam with several organisations already calling shutdowns and holding demonstrations in the past few days.

The central government issued notification recently saying that it is further considering the issue of regularisation of entry and stay of such Bangladeshi and Pakistani nationals in India, who escaped from the respective countries due to religious persecution, on humanitarian ground.

“The central government must clarify its stand at the earliest over the issue,” said PPFA secretary Rupam Barua.

“The PPFA also demands a concrete refugee policy with a legal framework to be adopted by New Delhi and urged the people of Assam not to get carried over by the ongoing debate of ‘granting citizenship to these minority communities from Bangladesh and Pakistan’,” he said, adding that granting mere refugee status does not mean granting citizenship to those asylum seekers.

“Even though a refugee in a country is legally allowed to enjoy some basic rights for life, liberty, equality, healthcare, primary education, work, they are not entitled to have the status permanently,” Baruah said.

The PPFA further argued that the process of providing asylum to these minority communities including the Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, Sikh, Parsee nationals from Bangladesh and Pakistan should be temporary and that New Delhi must continue to pursue with the authorities in Dhaka and Islamabad diplomatically to help those refugees to return to their respective countries when the situation normalises.

(with inputs from IANS)

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Tea Body of Assam Slam ‘Chaiwala’ Modi

The tea labourers of Assam live in the most deplorable conditions without some of the basic amenities, Gowala said

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Narendra-Modi
Assam tea body slam 'chaiwala' Modi,

The largest tea body of Assam on Sunday slammed Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who often refer to himself as a “chaiwala”, for not being considerate towards the state’s tea garden workers’ plight and urged him to implement the promised minimum wage of Rs 350 before the new year starts.

The Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha (ACMS) General Secretary Rupesh Gowala said while Modi often refers to himself as a “chaiwala”, he is yet make good on his promises towards a million tea garden labourers in the state in the last four years.

“Before the Lok Sabha elections of 2014, Modi addressed several rallies in Assam and assured that the tea garden labourers would be paid a minimum wage of Rs 350 per day,” Gowala said.

“If this happens, the 10,00,000 tea garden labourers will lose Rs 30 each day for two months. Is it a “chaiwala” Prime Minister who is doing this to his own community?” said Gowala.

The tea garden workers in Brahmaputra Valley in Assam are presently drawing Rs 167 per day while the tea garden workers in Barak Valley are getting Rs 145 per day.

“The existing wage agreement between the Assam government and the ACMS and other tea workers bodies expired on December 31, 2017.

Narendra Modi
Narendra Modi (Wikimedia Commons)

“The government had announced an interim hike of Rs 30 per day. The tea garden labourers are supposed to get this interim hike from January 1, 2018, but the government is saying the hike will apply from March 1, 2018.

“This would make them lose Rs 30 per day for two months,” he said.

The Bharatiya Janata Party-led government in Assam is yet to fix that minimum wage, Gowala said, urging Modi to announce the promised Rs 350 per day minimum wage before 2019.

Gowala said the condition of all those tea gardens run by the Assam government was far worse.

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“While the labourers in company-owned garden are receiving a wage of Rs. 167 per day now, the 26,000 workers under the 14 gardens of state-owned Assam Tea Company Limited (ATCL) are receiving a wage of Rs 115 only per day,” he said.

Assam has over 800 medium and large size tea gardens that produces over 50 per cent of the country’s total tea produce.

The tea labourers of Assam live in the most deplorable conditions without some of the basic amenities, Gowala said. (IANS)