Cividep’s research and capacity-building work in the plantation sector coffee estates in Karnataka’s Coorg district and tea plantations in the north-eastern state of Assam. Workers typically live on plantations as part of isolated communities that are some distance from rural habitation. Plantation companies run their own schools, crèches and hospitals onsite, or in the vicinity of the estates. However, in-kind benefits have failed to alleviate extreme poverty because of low wages and poor standards of education and healthcare.
The situation is especially dire in Assam, where the usual daily wage is less than half the legal minimum wage. Provision of in-kind benefits (mandated by the Plantations Labour Act, 1951) have been inadequate, and have failed to check malnutrition, preventable diseases, child trafficking, child marriage and a host of other problems. Workers’ homes inside plantations lack basic sanitation and facilities.
Cividep’s current focus is on studying working and living conditions on plantations, mapping supply chains and supporting local advocacy through training, capacity-building and knowledge creation.
Framtiden i våre hender, Norway (FIOH): Comparison of Working Conditions on Non-certified and Certified Tea Plantations in Assam, India
Issue: The use of certifications by plantations vis-a-vis gaps in labour rights
Focus: Studying the impact of certifications on working and living conditions
Plantation companies in Assam have often defended themselves against allegations of poor living and working conditions by citing certifications from bodies like Fairtrade’s FLOCERT, the Rainforest Alliance, UTZ and ETP. Cividep has undertaken a comparative study of certified and non-certified plantations to analyse if internationally recognised certifications lead to better conditions on tea estates.
Business & Human Rights: Capacity Building of local activists in Assam to Use Grievance Mechanisms to Access Remedy (FoRUM Norway)
Issue: Gaps in implementation of Plantations Labour Act (PLA) and lack of transparency in supply chains
Focus: Building civil society consensus on PLA reforms, and capacity building on supply chain linkages
As a part of continuing business and human rights capacity-building work, Cividep conducted a workshop on Plantations Labour Act reform in Guwahati, Assam in September 2016. The meeting was held with the aim of developing a civil society position on proposed legal reform to hand responsibility for in-kind benefits over to the state. The project also involved supply chain mapping to follow-up earlier research.
Cividep has previously supported the work of local Assamese groups through capacity-building programmes on business and human rights and international grievance mechanisms. In 2016, it published a report on supply chain linkages between international blenders, packers and retailers and plantations in Assam with the support of FoRUM Norway.
Finnwatch – Working Conditions on a TATA Coffee Plantation
In 2015-2016, Cividep researched working and living conditions on a TATA Coffee plantation in Coorg with the support of Finnwatch. The study was developed into a case study by Finnwatch for its report on coffee plantations in India, Brazil and Honduras that supply to Finnish roasters.
Asia Resource Monitor Centre, Hong Kong & Catholic Workers’ Association, Austria
Cividep is currently conducting a series of trainings on health, gender and labour rights for plantation workers in Coorg, with financial support from AMRC Hong Kong and Catholic Workers’ Association, Austria.