With Every Dream Denied…

Unknownlonely

With every road I move,
With every destination I choose,
With every love knocks me out,
With every emotion destiny’s a doubt,
I find myself in a labyrinth of life.
With every attempt to unwind,
With every soul that’s most unkind,
With every passing day and night,
With every teardrop that blinds my sight,
I sink into the morass of life.
With every word dismantled,
With every sentence entangled,
With every lyric the Heart utters,
With every Other the time fritters,
I discover all my dreams denied…

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Kashmir, The Broken Soul…

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Stifled and Suffocated Under Occupation,

Confined to a Life in a Brazen Act of Annexation,

Subjected to a Toxicity by the Rest of the Confederacy, 

Paying the Price of Some Cooked and Some Raw Conspiracy.  

Counting Days and Nights Cut off From the Near and Dear Ones, 

By the Apathy and Atrophy of the Power that Runs, 

Into a Corner and Forced Underground, 

By the Despicable Vulgarity and Obscenity of the Dictatorial Sound. 

Who’d Turn a Messiah to the Multiplying Affliction, 

To Arrest the Basic Arithmetic of Division by Constriction, 

To a Unity Imposed by Self-Rule and Determination, 

By a Despot Shambolic and Ostentatious in Bringing Forth Malediction. 

We are People With Indomitable Rights, 

Sacrificed at the Altar of Rituals and Rites, 

Chanted on by a Population that doesn’t seem to Care, 

Legitimizing the Deeds of the Fundamentalists’s as an Internal Affair. 

Nuclear Winter…What if India and Pakistan Were to Engage Here?

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We split the sub-continent with atomic burn,

The population is dead, we seal the urn,

Negotiations are over, we’re off the beaten track,

Civilizations en masse are interred through the crack.

 

Skies are turning to a horrific crimson,

The smoking bodies hide the moon and the sun,

The nuclear winter descends from the stratosphere,

Scorched earth is the writing on the wall everywhere…

Man Proposes OR Woman Proposes – “Matches” Happen Algorithmically and are Economically Walrasian Rather than Keynesian. Note Quote & Didactics.

Consider a set M of men and a set W of women. Each m ∈ M has a strict preference ordering over the elements of W and each w ∈ W has a strict preference ordering over men. Let us denote the preference ordering of an agent i by i and x ≻i y will mean that agent i ranks x above y. Now a marriage or matching would be considered as an assignment of men to women such that each man is assigned to at most one woman and vice versa. But, what if the agent decides to remain single. This is possible by two ways, viz. if a man or a woman is matched with oneself, or for each man or woman, there is a dummy woman or man in the set W or M that corresponds to being single. If this were the construction, then, we could safely assume |M| = |W|. But, there is another impediment here, whereby a subversion of sorts is possible, in that a group of agents could simply opt out of the matching exercise. In such a scenario, it becomes mandatory to define a blocking set. As an implication of such subversiveness, a matching is called unstable if there are two men m, m’ and two women w, w’ such that

  1. m is matched to w
  2. m’ is matched to w’, and
  3. w’ m w and m ≻w’ m’

then, the pair (m, w’) is a blocking pair. Any matching without the blocking pair is called stable.

Now, given the preferences of men and women, is it always possible to find stable matchings? For the same, what is used is Gale and Shapley’s deferred acceptance algorithm.

So, after a brief detour, let us concentrate on the male-proposal version.

First, each man proposes to his top-ranked choice. Next, each woman who has received at least two proposals keeps (tentatively) her top-ranked proposal and rejects the rest. Then, each man who has been rejected proposes to his top-ranked choice among the women who have not rejected him. Again each woman who has at least two proposals (including ones from previous rounds) keeps her top-ranked proposal and rejects the rest. The process repeats until no man has a woman to propose to or each woman has at most one proposal. At this point the algorithm terminates and each man is assigned to a woman who has not rejected his proposal. No man is assigned to more than one woman. Since each woman is allowed to keep only one proposal at any stage, no woman is assigned to more than one man. Therefore the algorithm terminates in a matching.

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Consider the matching {(m1, w1), (m2, w2), (m3, w3)}. This is an unstable matching since (m1, w2) is a blocking pair. The matching {(m1, w1), (m3, w2), (m2, w3)}, however, is stable. Now looking at the figure above, m1 proposes to w2, m2 to w1, and m3 to w1. At the end of this round, w1 is the only woman to have received two proposals. One from m3 and the other from m2. Since she ranks m3 above m2, she keeps m3 and rejects m2. Since m3 is the only man to have been rejected, he is the only one to propose again in the second round. This time he proposes to w3. Now each woman has only one proposal and the algorithm terminates with the matching {(m1, w2), (m2, w3), (m3, w2)}.

The male propose algorithm terminates in a stable matching.

Suppose not. Then ∃ a blocking pair (m1, w1) with m1 matched to w2, say, and w1 matched to m2. Since (m1, w1) is blocking and w1m1 w2, in the proposal algorithm, m1 would have proposed to w1 before w2. Since m1 was not matched with w1 by the algorithm, it must be because w1 received a proposal from a man that she ranked higher than m1. Since the algorithm matches her to m2 it follows that m2w1 m1. This contradicts the fact that (m1, w1) is a blocking pair.

Even if where the women propose, the outcome would still be stable matching. The only difference is in kind as the stable matching would be different from the one generated when the men propose. This would also imply that even if stable matching is guaranteed to exist, there is more than one such matching. Then what is the point to prefer one to the other? Well, there is a reason:

Denote a matching by μ. The woman assigned to man m in the matching μ is denoted μ(m). Similarly, μ(w) is the man assigned to woman w. A matching μ is male-optimal if there is no stable matching ν such that ν(m) ≻m μ(m) or ν(m) = μ(m) ∀ m with ν(j) ≻j μ(j) for at least one j ∈ M. Similarly for the female-optimality.

The stable matching produced by the (male-proposal) Deferred Acceptance Algorithm is male-optimal.

Let μ be the matching returned by the male-propose algorithm. Suppose μ is not male optimal. Then, there is a stable matching ν such that ν(m) ≻m μ(m) or ν(m) = μ(m) ∀ m with ν(j) ≻j μ(j) for at least one j ∈ M. Therefore, in the application of the proposal algorithm, there must be an iteration where some man j proposes to ν(j) before μ(j) since ν(j) ≻j μ(j) and is rejected by woman ν(j). Consider the first such iteration. Since woman ν(j) rejects j she must have received a proposal from a man i she prefers to man j. Since this is the first iteration at which a male is rejected by his partner under ν, it follows that man i ranks woman ν(j) higher than ν(i). Summarizing, i ≻ν(j) j and ν(j) ≻i ν(i) implying that ν is not stable, a contradiction.

Now, the obvious question is if this stable matching is optimal w.r.t. to both men and women? The answer this time around is NO. From above, it could easily be seen that there are two stable matchings, one of them is male-optimal and the other is female-optimal. At least, one female is strictly better-off under the female optimality than male optimality, and by this, no female is worse off. If the POV is men, a similar conclusion is drawn.  A stable marriage is immune to a pair of agents opting out of the matching. We could ask that no subset of agents should have an incentive to opt out of the matching. Formally, a matching μ′ dominates a matching μ if there is a set S ⊂ M ∪ W such that for all m, w ∈ S, both (i) μ′(m), μ′(w) ∈ S and (ii) μ′(m) ≻m μ(m) and μ′(w) ≻w μ(w). Stability is a special case of this dominance condition when we restrict attention to sets S consisting of a single couple. The set of undominated matchings is called the core of the matching game.

The direct mechanism associated with the male propose algorithm is strategy-proof for the males.

Suppose not. Then there is a profile of preferences π = (≻m1 , ≻m2 , . . . , ≻mn) for the men, such that man m1, say, can misreport his preferences and obtain a better match. To express this formally, let μ be the stable matching obtained by applying the male proposal algorithm to the profile π. Suppose that m1 reports the preference ordering ≻ instead. Let ν be the stable matching that results when the male-proposal algorithm is applied to the profile π1 = (≻, ≻m2 , . . . , ≻mn). For a contradiction, suppose ν(m1) ≻m1 μ(m1). For notational convenience let a ≽m b mean that a ≻m b or a = b.

First we show that m1 can achieve the same effect by choosing an ordering ≻̄ where woman ν(m1) is ranked first. Let π2 = (≻̄ , ≻m2 , . . . , ≻mn). Knowing that ν is stable w.r.t the profile π1 we show that it is stable with respect to the profile π2. Suppose not. Then under the profile π2 there must be a pair (m, w) that blocks ν. Since ν assigns to m1 its top choice with respect to π2, m1 cannot be part of this blocking pair. Now the preferences of all agents other than m1 are the same in π1 and π2. Therefore, if (m, w) blocks ν w.r.t the profile π2, it must block ν w.r.t the profile π1, contradicting the fact that ν is a stable matching under π1.

Let λ be the male propose stable matching for the profile π2. ν is a stable matching w.r.t the profile π2. As λ is male optimal w.r.t the profile π2, it follows that λ(m1) = ν(m1).

Let’s assume that ν(m1) is the top-ranked woman in the ordering ≻. Now we show that the set B = {mj : μ(mj) ≻mj ν(mj)} is empty. This means that all men, not just m1, are no worse off under ν compared to μ. Since ν is stable w.r.t the original profile, π this contradicts the male optimality of μ.

Suppose B ≠ ∅. Therefore, when the male proposal algorithm is applied to the profile π1, each mj ∈ B is rejected by their match under μ, i.e., μ(mj). Consider the first iteration of the proposal algorithm where some mj is rejected by μ(mj). This means that woman μ(mj) has a proposal from man mk that she ranks higher, i.e., mkμ(mj) mj. Since mk was not matched to μ(mj) under μ it must be that μ(mk) ≻mk μ(mj). Hence mk ∈ B , otherwise μ(mj) ≽ mkν(mk) ≽mk μ(mk) ≻mk μ(mj), which is a contradiction. Since mk ∈ B and mk has proposed to μ(mj) at the time man mj proposes, it means that mk must have been rejected by μ(mk) prior to mj being rejected, contradicting our choice of mj.

The mechanism associated with the male propose algorithm is not strategy-proof for the females. Let us see how this is the case by way of an example. The male propose algorithm returns the matching {(m1, w2), (m2, w3), (m3, w1)}. In the course of the algorithm the only woman who receives at least two proposals is w1. She received proposals from m2 and m3. She rejects m2 who goes on to propose to w3 and the algorithm terminates. Notice that w1 is matched with her second choice. Suppose now that she had rejected m3 instead. Then m3 would have gone on to proposes to w2. Woman w2 now has a choice between m1 and m3. She would keep m3 and reject m1, who would go on to propose to w1. Woman w1 would keep m1 over m2 and in the final matching be paired with a her first-rank choice.

Transposing this on to economic theory, this fits neatly into the Walrasian equilibrium. Walras’ law is an economic theory that the existence of excess supply in one market must be matched by excess demand in another market so that it balances out. Walras’ law asserts that an examined market must be in equilibrium if all other markets are in equilibrium, and this contrasts with Keynesianism, which by contrast, assumes that it is possible for just one market to be out of balance without a “matching” imbalance elsewhere. Moreover, Walrasian equilibria are the solutions of a fixed point problem. In the cases when they can be computed efficiently it is because the set of Walrasian equilibria can be described by a set of convex inequalities. The same can be said of stable matchings/marriages. The set of stable matchings is fixed points of a nondecreasing function defined on a lattice. 

Kashmir

Kashmir is the undefined unbecoming by the unprepared for the uninformed by way of the unceremoniously unspecified creation of this unruly mess.

I’d unsubscribe from this undemocratic, unparliamentary and unconstitutional uncertainties…

 

I Wish I Were, They Wish I Were Not…

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I wish
I were a war never fought
A peace never bought
The blood never splattered
The lives never battered.

I wish
I were the guns never fired
The bombs never aspired
The batons never charged
The orders never discharged.

I wish
I were a lie never spoken
Dreams never broken
A hatred never born
A love never shorn.

I wish
I were a Government never formed
Policies never deformed
A religion never a refuge
A god drowned forever in the deluge.

I wish I were..
They wish I were not…

— Himanshu Damle

How the Alt-Right Infiltrated Architecture Twitter – and turned Notre-Dame into a Political Lighting Rod.

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“Buildings broadcast a message. Good and bad architecture can lift, or subdue a message… aesthetic ugliness promotes ugly behavior,” says 35-year-old Paul Joseph Watson, a commentator on Infowars, in a video titled “Why Modern Architecture SUCKS.” Watson refers to modernist architects — those who designed buildings after World War II, like Ernő Goldfinger, Owen Luder and John Bancroft — as “the social justice warriors of their time” who actively “rebelled against beauty.” By creating large concrete tower blocks — often with the intention of building social housing for the poor — Watson believes they attempted to “socially engineer society” like the Soviet Union.

He’s also far from the only critic to complain about the legacy of brutalism, a style of modern architecture that emerged in the 1950s and 1960s in the U.K., but was developed largely by French architects like Le Corbusier. Brutalist buildings were characterized by simple, block-like structures that often featured exposed concrete and were constructed in the belief that architects should design buildings with their function in mind first and foremost. As a result, brutalist architects would usually prioritize public space over monuments to gawk at. “Many Brutalist buildings expressed a progressive or even utopian vision of communal living and public ownership,” writes Felix Torkar in Jacobin magazine. (To that end, brutalist buildings were often favored by European governments as social housing for impoverished communities.) “The battle to protect them is also a fight to defend this social inheritance.”

Read on…

Minimum Support Price (MSP) for Farmers – Ruminations for the Grassroots.

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Minimum Support Price (MSP) is an insurance given by the Government of India to insure farmers and agricultural workers against any sharp fall in farm prices. MSP is a policy instrument at the disposal of the government and is introduced based on the recommendations of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) generally at the beginning of sowing season. The major objective of MSP is protecting and supporting farmers during bumper production periods by pouring food grains for public distribution. There are two ways in which an effective MSP can be implemented, viz. procurement of commodities and as remunerative. The remunerative nature for farmers compensates the difference between MSP and the prices received by them.

With the agrarian crisis looming large, the policies need to emphasize on measures that can bring forth immediate results. These results could be achieved through the components of price and non-price factors. Non-price factors are long-term oriented and rely on market reforms, institutional reforms and innovations in technology in order to bring in an upward drift growth and income brackets of the farmers. Price factors are short-term oriented that necessitate immediate upward drift in remunerative prices for farm produce. It is within the ambit of price factors that MSP stands. The government notifies MSP for 23 commodities and FRP (fair and remunerative price) for sugarcane. These crops cover about 84% of total area under cultivation in all the seasons of a year. About 5% area is under fodder crops which is not amenable for MSP intervention. According to this arithmetic, close to 90% of the total cultivated area is applicable to MSP intervention, leaving a small segment of producers amenable to price benefits, if the MSP were to be fully implemented.

So, how exactly does the CACP determine the Minimum Support Price (MSP)? CACP takes the following factors under consideration while determining the MSP:

  1. Cost of cultivation per hectare and structure of costs across various regions in the country and the changes therein.
  2. Cost of production per quintal across various regions of the country and the changes therein.
  3. Prices of various inputs and the changes therein.
  4. Market prices of products and the changes therein.
  5. Prices of commodities sold by the farmers and of those purchased by them and the changes therein.
  6. supply-related information like area, yield and production, imports, exports and domestic availability and stocks with the Government/Public agencies or industry.
  7. Demand-related information, which includes the total and per capita consumption, trends and capacity of the processing industry.
  8. Prices in the international markets and the changes therein.
  9. Prices of the derivatives of the farm products such as sugar, jaggery, jute, edible and non-edible oils, cotton yarns and changes therein.
  10. Cost of processing of agricultural products and the changes therein.
  11. Cost of marketing and services, storage, transportation, processing, taxes/fees, and margins retained by market functionaries, and
  12. Macroeconomic variables such as general level of prices, consumer price indices and those reflecting monetary and fiscal factors.

As can be seen, this is an extensive set of parameters that the Commission relies on for calculating the Minimum Support Price (MSP). But, then the question is: where does the Commission get access to this data set? The data is generally gathered from agricultural scientists, farmer leaders, social workers, central ministries, Food Corporation of India (FCI), National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (NAFED), Cotton Corporation of India (CCI), Jute Corporation of India, traders’ organizations and research institutes. The Commission then calculates the MSP and sends it to the Central Government for approval, which then sends it to the states for their suggestions. Once the states given their nods, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs subscribes to these figures that are then released on CACP portals.

During the first year of UPA-1 Government in the centre in 2004, a National Commission on Farmers (NCF) was formed with M S Swaminathan (Research Foundation) as its Chairman. One of the major objectives of the Commission was to make farm commodities cost-competitive and profitable. To achieve this task, a three-tiered structure for calculating the farming cost was devised, viz. A2, FL and C2. A2 is the actual paid out costs, while, A2+FL is the actual paid-out cost plus imputed value of family labour, where imputing is assigning a value to something by inference from the value of the products or processes to which it contributes. C2 is the comprehensive cost including imputed rent and interest on owned land and capital. It is evident that C2 > A2+FL > A2

The Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) while recommending prices takes into account all important factors including costs of production, changes in input prices, input/output parity, trends in market prices, inter crop price parity, demand and supply situation, parity between prices paid and prices received by the farmers etc. In fixing the support prices, CACP relies on the cost concept which covers all items of expenses of cultivation including that of the imputed value of the inputs owned by the farmers such as rental value of owned land and interest on fixed capital. some of the important cost concepts are C2 and C3:

C3: C2 + 10% of C2 to account for managerial remuneration to the farmer.

Swaminathan Commission Report categorically states that farmers should get an MSP, which is 50% higher than the comprehensive cost of production. this cost + 50% formula came from the Swaminathan Commission and it had categorically stated that the cost of production is the comprehensive cost of production, which is C2 and not A2+FL. C2 includes all actual expenses in cash and kind incurred in the production by the actual owner + rent paid for leased land + imputed value of family labour + interest on the value of owned capital assets (excluding land) + rental value of the owned land (net of land revenue). Costs of production are calculated both on a per quintal and per hectare basis. Since cost variation are large over states, CACP recommends that MSP should be considered on the basis of C2. However, increases in MSP have been so substantial in case of paddy and wheat that in most of the states, MSPs are way above not only the C2, but even C3 as well.

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This is where the political economy of MSP stares back at the hapless farmers. Though 23 crops are to be notified on MSP, not more than 3 are are actually ensured. The Indian farm sector is also plagued by low scale production restricted by small-sized holdings, which ensures that margin over cost within the prevailing system generates at best low income for the farmers. This is precisely the point of convergence of reasons why the farmers have been demanding effective implementation of MSP by keeping the MSP 50% higher than the costs incurred. Farmers and farmers’ organizations have demanded that the MSP be increased to cost of production + 50%, since for them, cost of production has meant C2 and not A2+FL. At present, the CACP adds A2 and FL to determine the MSP. The Government then adds 50% of the value obtained by adding A2 and FL only to fix the MSP, thus ignoring C2. What the farmers and farmers’ organizations have been demanding is an addition of 50% to C2 to fix the MSP, which is sadly missing the hole point of Governmental announcements. This difference between what the farmers want and what the government gives is a reason behind so much unrest as regards support prices to the farmers.

Ramesh Chand, who is currently serving in the NITI Aayog, is still a voice of reason over and above what the Government has been implementing by way of sops. Chand has also recommended that the interest on working capital should be given for the whole season against the existing half-season, and the actual rental value prevailing in the village should be considered without a ceiling on the rent. Moreover, post-harvest costs, cleaning, grading, drying, packaging, marketing and transportation should be included. C2 should be hiked by 10% to account for the risk premium and managerial charges.

According to Ramesh Chand of NITI Aayog, there is an urgent need to take into account the market clearance price in recommending the MSP. This would reflect both the demand and supply sides. When the MSP is fixed depending on the demand-side factors, then the need for government intervention to implement MSPs would be reduced only to the situation where the markets are not competitive or when the private trade turns exploitative. However, if there is a deficiency price payment mechanism or crops for which an MSP declared but the purchase doesn’t materialize, then the Government should compensate the farmers for the difference between the MSP and lower market price. such a mechanism has been implemented in Madhya Pradesh under the name of Bhavantar Bhugtan Yojana (BBY), where the Government, rather than accept its poor track record in procurement directly from the farmers has been compensating the farmers with direct cash transfers when the market prices fall below MSP. The scheme has had its downsides with long delays in payments and heavy transaction costs. There is also a glut in supply with the markets getting flooded with low-quality grains, which then depress the already low crop prices. Unless, his and MS Swaminathan’s recommendations are taken seriously, the solution to the agrarian crisis is hiding towards a capitalist catastrophe. And why does one say that?

In order to negotiate the price deficient mechanism towards resolution, the Government is left with another option in the form of procurement. But, here is a paradox. The Government clearly does not have the bandwidth to first create a system and then manage the procurement of crops for which the MSP has been announced, which now number 20. If there is a dead-end reached here, the likelihood of Government turning towards private markets cannot be ruled out. And once that turn is taken, thee markets would become vulnerable to whims and fancies of local politicians who would normally have influencing powers in their functioning, thus taking the system on their discretionary rides.

There obviously are certain questions that deem an answer and these fall within the ambit of policy making. For instance, is there a provision in the budget to increase the ambit of farmers who are covered by the MSP? Secondly, calculations of MSP involve private costs and benefits, and thus exhibit one side of the story. For an exhaustive understanding, social costs and benefits must also be incorporated. With a focus primarily on private costs and benefits, socially wasteful production and specialization is encouraged, like paddy production in north India with attendant consequences to which we have become grim witnesses. Would this double-bind ever be overcome is a policy matter, and at the moment what is being witnessed is a policy paralysis and lack of political will transforming only in embanking the vote bank. Thats a pity!

The Plantation Labour Act, 1951. Random Musings.

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The Plantation Labour Act, 1951 provides for the welfare of plantation labour and regulates the conditions of work in plantations. According to the Act, the term ‘plantation’ means “any plantation to which this Act, whether wholly or in part, applies and includes offices, hospitals, dispensaries, schools, and any other premises used for any purpose connected with such plantation, but does not include any factory on the premises to which the provisions of the Factories Act, 1948 apply.”

The Act applies to any land used as plantations which measures 5 hectares or more in which 15 or more persons are working. However, the State Governments are free to declare any plantation land less than 5 hectares or less than 15 persons to be covered by the Act.

The Act provides that no adult worker and adolescent or child shall be employed for more than 48 hours and 27 hours respectively a week, and every worker is entitled for a day of rest in every period of 7 days. In every plantation covered under the Act, medical facilities for the workers and their families are to be made readily available. Also, it provides for setting up of canteens, creches, recreational facilities, suitable accommodation and educational facilities for the benefit of plantation workers in and around the work places in the plantation estate. Its amendment in 1981 provided for compulsory registration of plantations. 

The Act is administered by the Ministry of Labour through its Industrial Relations Division. The Division is concerned with improving the institutional framework for dispute settlement and amending labour laws relating to industrial relations. It works in close co-ordination with the Central Industrial Relations Machinery (CIRM) in an effort to ensure that the country gets a stable, dignified and efficient workforce, free from exploitation and capable of generating higher levels of output. The CIRM, which is an attached office of the Ministry of Labour, is also known as the Chief Labour Commissioner (Central) [CLC(C)] Organisation. The CIRM is headed by the Chief Labour Commissioner (Central).

In the case of the tea plantations, the responsibility for welfare measures has been given to their management. The Government of India imposed this responsibility on them through the Plantation Labour Act of 1951 (PLA). The Government of Assam gave it a concrete shape in the Assam Plantation Labour Rules, 1956. This act provided for certain welfare measures for the workers and imposed restrictions on the working hours. They are to be 54 (per week) for adults and 44 (per week) for non-adults. The employers are also to attend to the health aspect, provide adequate drinking water, latrines and urinals separately for men and women for every 50 acres of land under cultivation, proper maintenance of the drinking water and sanitation system. The employer is also to provide a garden hospital for the estates with more than 500 workers or have a lien of 15 beds for every 1,000 workers in a neighbouring hospital within a distance of five kilometres. The gardens are also to have a group hospital in a sub area considered central for the people and provide transport to the patients. Along with the canteen facility a well furnished lighted and ventilated crèche for children below 2 is to be provided in gardens with more than 50 women workers. An open playground is to be provided for children above 2. The workers are to be provided with recreational facilities such as community radio and TV sets and indoor games. 

Specific to the PLA is the clause on educational facilities. If the number of children in the 6-12 age group exceeds 25 the employer should provide and maintain at least a primary school for imparting primary education to them. The school should have facilities such as a building in accordance with the guidelines and standard plans of the Education Department. If the garden does not maintain a school because a public school is situated within a mile from the garden then the employer is to pay a cess or tax for the children’s primary education. 

The tea plantation workers are still paid wages below the minimum wage of agricultural workers. An industry, which is highly capitalistic in character, owing to the colonial times when British private businesses with the extended involvement of British capital expanded the industry from the vantage point of international marketing and financial activities, and still continuing in formats no different in kind post-independence, bifurcates the wages partly in cash and partly in kind. Even if there has been a numerical increase in wages post-independence for the plantation workers, qualitatively, this hasn’t had any substantial improvement, thanks to minute upward fluctuations in real wages. What this has amounted to is a continuation of feudal relations of production and a highly structured organization of production in its pre-marketing phases, and thus expropriating super-profits on the basis of semi-feudal, extra-economic coercion and exploitation.

The literacy rate among the tea garden workers and their families is a poor 20 per cent. Around one-third of the workforce is denied housing facilities. Every year, hundreds of people in the plantations die from water-borne diseases like gastro-enteritis and cholera. Most of the plantations have no potable drinking water facilities and drainage systems.

The majority of the workers are suffering from anaemia and tuberculosis. Malaria is rampant. There are tea gardens where at least one in every family is suffering from tuberculosis. And the children and women are the worst affected. The infant mortality rate is very high, far above the state and national averages. 

The ethnicity of the tea workforce is probably one reason why nobody cares. a significant percentage of the tea plantation workers of Assam and West Bengal are tribals, fourth generation immigrants of indentured migrants from the Central and South-Central Indian tribal heartland. In Assam, they do not enjoy any special status, as their brethren elsewhere do. They are merely referred to as the tea labour and ex-tea labour community. The children cannot avail of any reservation facility in educational institutions, the youth do not enjoy any opportunity in the employment circuit. Most of the time, education begins and ends with lower primary schools housed within the gardens themselves. In other words, being coerced into plantation labour at the cost of continuing education is nothing uncommon. After getting sucked into the plantation, this young labour force, due to lack of skilled exposure and an almost complete absence of alternative employment opportunity only add credence to the epitome of modern-day bonded labour: forced and unfree in nature. With the institution of labour laws and the PLA in the tea plantation industry, it is the women who have been the prime target of deprivation and exploitation. They have been subjected to long working hours and heavy workload. Even the pregnant women are not spared from activities like deep hoeing. The majority of the temporary workers, today, are women. For them, social welfare benefits under PLA including maternity and medical benefits do not exist.

The tea plantation industry is amongst the largest organized industry in India, where the workers are unionized. In West Bengal, there are up north of 30 unions, whereas in Assam, the mantle of workers’ representation over the last five decades has been invested  with the Assam Cha Mazdoor Sangh (ACMS). ACMS happens to be the only registered union, even though some others have central trade unions affiliations.  Despite strong unionization, the issue of PLA implementation is weak with not a single plantation boasting of total implementation. One major implication of such a lack is reflected in the dominion of tea industry associations, which maneuver wage agreements. With hardly any promotional avenues opening up for a large majority of unskilled workers, these across ages and experiences receive same wages and are classified as daily wage workers. The last few decades of wage agreements show that the tea employers have not conceded any major demand of the trade unions. The tea associations have also not agreed to the CPI-linked variable Dearness Allowance. Nearly 40 per cent of the workers in the tea plantations of West Bengal and Assam are temporary and casual workers with growing numbers ruling them out of the ambit of PLA. That the tea industry is reaping all the benefits without investing a unit currency on a large section of its workforce is a direct consequent of the above fact. 

The agreements in West Bengal are tripartite in that the union, tea industry association and the government work out the agreement, whereas bipartite in Assam where the government is not a party. The long-term understanding with the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC) affiliated ACMS has given the Assam employers a clear domination and stranglehold over the industry. Officially, there is no labour unrest, industrial relations remain generally peaceful and ACMS, understandably, ‘co-operates with the industry’. In West Bengal, however, any demand by the workers and the unions, termed unfair by the industry, is either flatly rejected, or is repeatedly discussed by the tea industry in a series of consultations, a delaying tactic mainly, until the unions are fed up and ask the government to intervene. Even then, there is a lot of resentment amongst the workers, but the very threat to their survival forces them to keep quiet and accept the verdict. For a tea plantation worker, whose forefathers were indentured immigrants, and were born and brought up inside the tea gardens, dismissal means not only the loss of livelihood but a threat to their general existence. It is therefore very evident that even with complete unionization, positive interventions on behalf of the workers are confined to the micro-scale and any extrapolation to the macro-scale doesn’t really help beat seclusion and isolation. But, what is really ironic is that these unions have remained workers’ only link to the outside world, albeit in a manner that hasn’t concretely contributed to their cause. 

The trade unions in the tea industry are operating under the same hierarchical and organizational setup master-minded and practiced by the planters right from the colonial days. Beyond a point, logic says that they will never be able to confront the tea industry to struggle for the betterment and uplift of the tea workers. The trade unions have thus miles to go, starting foremost with the politics of architecture: to revamp organizational change and hierarchies in favour of workers to be able to survive and discharge responsibilities towards the tea plantation workers.