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Aadhaar plea in tea estates

Bengal panic over citizen regime

By Avijit Sinha in Siliguri

  • Published 19.01.20, 3:29 AM
  • Updated 19.01.20, 3:29 AM
The TAI meeting on Saturday.
The TAI meeting on Saturday. Picture by Biplab Basak

The Indian Tea Association (ITA), the largest organisation of planters in the country, on Saturday urged the Centre to facilitate the Aadhaar enrolment of garden workers, pointing out that many labourers and their families living in estates do not have the key document.

Representatives of the ITA said at the 142nd annual general meeting of its Dooars branch that the government should open authorised centres in tea estates so that the workers and their families can enrol themselves and receive Aadhaar cards.

The plea comes at a time when there is widespread panic over the NRC and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, and people are swarming banks, post-offices and other centres to apply for Aadhaar cards or get mistakes in the document rectified.

L. Smith, the chairman of the Dooars branch of the ITA, said at the meeting in Jalpaiguri: “In literal terms, Aadhaar cards provide a foundation to every resident of this country, and with the dream of a digital India, it has become the most important document for every individual and may soon become one of our most prized possessions.

“However, at the tea estates, the Aadhaar card or ‘aadhaar’ has become synonymous with its other literal meaning in Bengali, which is ‘darkness’. Unfortunately, even after so many years of introduction, many tea estate workers do not have Aadhaar cards and those who possess them have documents full of erroneous data.”

Smith said workers had to face severe inconvenience because of the lack of Aadhaar cards and mistakes in cards.

“With such being the situation, the workers have to face acute impediments in case of provident fund matters, while opening bank accounts and in availing themselves of different schemes of the government. Now, they have a fresh problem as Aadhaar needs to be linked to ration cards,” he said.

Sources in the association said the UIDAI, which issues Aadhaar cards, had taken up the task of rectification in tea estates, but in a phased manner. “As the number of cases is huge, it would take a long time. We need authorised Aadhaar centres in the Dooars and also, camps should be conducted regularly,” said an ITA representative.

The trade unions criticised the Centre for the Aadhaar-related problems.

“The workers do not have land documents and they largely bank on identity proof like voter and Aadhaar cards. On the other hand, the Centre is trying to implement the CAA, NRC and the NPR, which would only add to the problems of the tea population,” said Alok Chakraborty, a senior Intuc leader in Siliguri.