The Stream

The real cost of your cup of tea

India’s tea workers struggle for fair wages.

Your cup of tea fails to tell the story of pain and suffering that many of India’s 1.2 million tea workers face. India is the world’s second-largest tea producer after China, and according to the Global Network for the Right to Food and Nutrition, workers are routinely subjected to harsh living conditions, food insecurity and low wages.

The legacy of a feudal plantation system has put many tea workers in northeastern India at a disadvantage. Most of them are descendants of tribal communities brought to the plantations as forced labour during India’s colonial period. To this day, workers don’t own the land they toil and each family is required to provide a labourer to continue living in the tea gardens.
Women make up the majority of the workforce. Historically, this was a way to contain the labour force and “ensure steady reproduction of cheap labour”. Demonitisation in India has made the situation even more complicated.
We will discuss tea workers rights and what you can do to be a responsible consumer.

On this episode of The Stream, we’ll speak to:

Upendra Pradhan @Jorebungley

Sarah Besky @SarahBesky
Assistant professor, Department of Anthropology & Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, Brown University

Anuradha Talwar
West Bengal Advisor to the Commissioner of the Supreme Court on Right to Food

Rajiv Lochan @lochantea2016
Owner, Lochan Tea Company

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.