Tea and Life, Tea Workers

My Mokalbari tastes better today

I’ve been enjoying the great Assam estate teas from Mokalbari ever since I ordered one on a whim from Vivek Lochan at Lochan tea.

This morning, I had cause to visit the Mokalbari website, and I like what I saw.

Not for the profile, nor the tea descriptions, nor the press bits, nor the packaging - actually, I do like their mini tea-chests – but the page entitled “Worker’s Care”.

Straight away, I was impressed that they have such a page, so I decided to recreate the text of it here in full. With, of course, my commentary.

We try to take best care of our workers. All the guidelines, laid down in the Act are strictly followed.

Workers get 6.5 kgs. of rice and 6.5 kgs. of aata at a very nominal rate of 50 paise/kg.

 The management provides the workers with, dry tea, blanket, apron, umbrella, chapel, basket, cane-hat, nylon bag, fire-wood etc. absolutely free of cost.

Just to clarify,  ‘aata’ is the same as the atta flour I often mention in my videos -a wholegrain bread flour, 50 paise is about 1 US cent, and I think chapel is supposed to be ‘chappal’ – sandals – as opposed to a small church each.

And the Act referred to is often flouted. Many of the Government Inspectors in Assam are corrupt, and it is far easier and cheaper for Estate owners to just pay them off.

Workers get pucca houses with electricity connection.

This is pretty rare.  “Pucca” is “good” or “proper”.

The company maintains a 32-bed hospital with 2 doctors, 2 pharmacist, 2 nurse,Nursing attendants and 1 health assistant, to take care of the health of the workers.

2 Ambulances are always kept ready, to meet any medical emergencies

That looks like better health care than most Western companies! And put it in context: without it, these workers often have no way to get to a doctor, and insufficient means to afford one.

The management runs, 2 Primary schools with 3 teachers, so that the children of the tea workers, get their basic education while their parents are at work. 3 satelite crèches and 12 crèches.

Young kids of the workers are given their daily dose of milk.

This is obviously very important. I remember a time in the 70s in Australia when we were all given a “tetrapak” of milk at school every day. (Incidentally this is where my hatred of people calling tetrahedron-shaped teabags “pyramid-shaped” stems from.)

It’s clear that this is a win/win for the company and the workers.

I know we’d all like to think that many of those children would get further education. In many cases, these children will go from primary school to working on the tea estate themselves.  It’s easy for us in the West to think that’s a raw deal. But then, we think yesterday’s bread is not worth eating.

Let’s get some perspective! A job for life, food and shelter. The King of Stating the Obvious, Abraham Maslow, would approve!

Workers enjoy hot salted tea, two times a day, to ward off dehydration and get instant energy.

Well, that’s not my cup of tea. But nevertheless, a very good idea.

Canteen is an ideal place for the workers to have a nice meal at a nominal rate.

I’m sure it is. There is little detail around this. It’s probably the only alternative to packing your lunch, which is undoubtedly very common, to save a few paise.

The management has erected a number of … shaded cemented spaces, to be used by the workers for, during the break, organizing community poojas, socializing. 

Ok, if you’re unfamiliar with ‘poojas ” or puja, it’s a devotional act. And the idea of a break from the sun must be very welcoming.

So, that’s it. The page these are drawn from,. along with photographs , is here.

I’ve written many times about tea workers and the fact is,  our beverage often comes at the expense of workers’ exploitation and suffering.

When you read Indian stock market recommendations about this company, they mention that they get a higher than average price for their tea. I’m not surprised. I’m happy to pay it.

I’m sure there are many other worthy estates. I wonder how many of them make tea that tastes so good, though?

Talk about a win/win/win.

 

 

 

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Reddit
Standard

5 thoughts on “My Mokalbari tastes better today

  1. Thank you for sharing this. It puts me in mind of a conversation I had last week with a co-worker who immigrated from Vietnam to the U.S. When he returns home to visit family, they often marvel at what he earns and is able to purchase for his children (shoes, and so forth) – it’s always measured by the equivalent of rice. “Do you know how much rice you could buy with that?”
    Those things seem like such an afterthought to most of us – but it’s truly security for these people who do the world’s back-breaking labor.
    A great reminder that it’s worth taking the extra couple of minutes to look at where the tea we drink is sourced.
    My only concern is whether we can trust the information because the estate owners would have an economic interest in putting a shiny face on things, but at some point, as consumers, we have to take them at their word – they’re at least making the effort to disclose, where other estates might not be so forthcoming.

  2. It is a step in the right direction (but I don’t believe in utopia).

    “When you read Indian stock market recommendations about this company”

    Where do you read them?

    And how much is anything worth in rice? … I wouldn’t be able to say it.

  3. Living amongst tea here in India, i can say that almost every tea garden tries its best to give back to the workers that they employ.

    Some are just better at giving back than others. Mainly, it is the garden managers that make a different to the giving back process.

    We are able to give back much more through our own tea farm, Doke, as we administer it directly and our main policy has always been to give back to the people and help them better their and their children’s lives.

    More can be found at http://www.doketea.in

  4. Pingback: scandalous tea » Blog Archive » What Am I Drinking? 2 Revealed

Comments are closed.