Guwahati: In view of apprehensions that the Centre’s demonetisation move would affect wage disbursal to tea garden labour in Assam, the central government has made special arrangements for the tea gardens of the state to ensure timely payment of wages to labourers, state Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said on Sunday.
The tea garden managements concerned would give a cheque of the amount required to disburse the weekly salary of the labourers to the Deputy Commissioners of the districts who would in turn withdraw the money from the bank and hand it over to the tea garden management, Sarma told media persons in Assam’s capital Dispur.
The move is expected to bring relief to over 800 small and big tea gardens in Assam which require around Rs 50 crore per week to pay wages to over ten lakh labourers.
The demonetisation move, it is feared, will hit the tea gardens where cash is the only mode of payment.
A number of tea garden managements and associations had approached the state government seeking assistance to handle the issue and fearing law and order situation in the gardens on pay day which varies from Friday to Sunday.
“Our government has taken up the matter with the Prime Minister’s Office, the central government and the Reserve Bank of India immediately. We are thankful that the government has responded so fast and arranged special dispensation for the tea gardens in the state,” Sarma said.
“From now on, the Deputy Commissioners would receive the cheque required to pay wages to the labourers from the concerned tea gardens and withdraw the money from the bank and hand it over to the garden management for disbursement of their weekly wages,” he said.
He added that, in the process, the government would also have a correct data about the wages paid to the tea garden workers by the management.
The Assam government had several times appealed to the tea garden managements to increase the wages to the workers, but some gardens are yet to implement it.
The Minister admitted that the people of the state were facing problems due to demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 denomination banknotes and lack of sufficient currency in the ATMs but expressed confidence that the situation will be normal by next week.
“There are 3,115 ATMs of the State bank of India in Assam and all of them would be loaded with new currency notes by Sunday evening,” he said.
“Out of the total ATMs, 2,900 have already been loaded with Rs 100 denomination banknotes,” he said.
SBI has so far disbursed Rs 3,654 crore in the entire northeastern states in the last two days, including Rs 2,600 crore in Assam alone.
“Apart from this, private banks are estimated to have disbursed another Rs 1,100 crore during these two days,” he said.