Safety + Health for All Workers in South Asia: India Component

The ILO/Japan project on “Safety + Health for All Workers in South Asia” is being implemented in the framework of the ILO’s Flagship programme “Safety + Health for All”. The project will contribute towards improving the safety and health of workers in plantation sector in South Asia (India, Nepal, Sri Lanka). This page describes the India component under the project.

Project background: India

India is the second largest tea producer in the world (1.2 million tons) and the fourth largest tea exporter of tea in the world. Assam, a state in the North Eastern region of India is the largest single tea growing region in the world. With about 750 estates and 100,000 smallholder plots, tea in Assam accounts for one sixth of the total global tea production. Assam produces half of India’s tea. Improving working and living conditions in the sector is directly linked to the current and future development of the lives of more than 1 million people in the state of Assam.

Tea production is characterized by high labour intensity especially in remote rural areas, with female workers representing half of the total workforce. Overall conditions of tea workers are poor and characterized by low wages, poor hygiene, sanitation, and health conditions, as well as limited workers’ voice and representation. Challenges around static market prices, international competitiveness, low worker wages and poor living conditions for workers continue to inhibit the industry. In addition, in the region, the increasing cost of mitigating climate change has begun to impact social facilities in estates raising some serious socio-economic issues related to working conditions on tea plantations, including safety and safety.

Issues related to poor living and working conditions, lack of safe drinking water, sanitation, poor health have been widely documented in the tea sector. Several hazardous work processes and tasks are potential threat during plucking tea, pruning and spraying of pesticides in tea bushes, and working with often-outdated tea factory machinery, as reported in a recent study (Oxfam, 2019). There are issues of water-borne diseases such as typhoid, jaundice, eye irritation, asthma, coughs and allergic reactions to dust and fumes. Women also suffer from dehydration, fever and other illness caused by pesticides. Health hazards in tea bushes include bites from spiders, scorpions and snakes. Use of chemicals, tools and machines are sources that result in injuries and accidents. In addition, COVID – 19 has created havoc in the lives of workers.

Project objective: India Component

The project objectives are to promote safety and health for all plantation workers. For the India component the immediate objectives are:
  1. Knowledge is generated and shared to improve the safety & health of workers in tea plantations.
  2. National and local institutions are strengthened to promote and protect the safety & health of plantation workers in India.
  3. Workplace and sector level initiatives/practices to promote safety & health of workers, with a focus on women workers, are developed or strengthened in India.
To this end, the project in India will aim to:
  • Generate and share knowledge on constraints and opportunities to improve the safety and health of workers and prevention of discrimination in the plantation sector in Assam, India;
  • Strengthen national and local institutions to better promote and protect the safety and health of plantation workers in India; and
  • Develop or strengthen workplace and industry level practices and initiatives to promote the safety and health of workers, in the tea plantation sector in India, through improved representation (including ‘voice’) of workers in the smallholdings and of women workers.
The project will contribute towards strengthening institutional capacities, enhancing social dialogue, and strengthen application of national OSH laws, fundamental conventions and other international labour standards. The levels of intervention will span across enterprises or workplaces to sector-wide to national and sub-regional institutions, mechanisms and processes. Interventions will take place in both the formalised estates and more informalized smallholdings in tea sector. Specific focus will also be given to promoting prevention and mitigation of the COVID-19 crisis. The project will follow ILO guidelines for gender mainstreaming in OSH to assist project partners and stakeholders to take gender-sensitive approach and mainstreaming gender into all activities with the ultimate goal of improving the occupational safety and health of women and men workers.

Areas covered in India:

In India, the project will focus in the tea sector in Assam (Brahmaputra and Barak valleys).

Implementing partners:

Government: Ministry of Labour and Employment (MOLE), Directorate General of Factory Advise and Labour Institutes (DGFASLI), Tea Board India (under Ministry of Commerce and Industry), State of Assam: Department of Labour and Welfare.

Trade Unions: Central Trade Unions at the centre and their state counterparts and other regional and state level unions and membership-based organizations.

Employers Organizations: Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), All India Organization of Employers (AIOE), Employers Federation of India (EFI).

Others: Indian Tea Association (ITA), Small Growers Associations and their confederations.

Target beneficiaries:

National level:
Ministry of Labour and Employment and DGFASLI; Tea Board of India; Central employers’ organizations and their affiliates: EFI, AIEO, CIE, CII and FICCI; Central trade unions; Indian Tea Association (ITA)

State level:
Labour & Welfare Department, Government of Assam; Different Line Departments: Department of Health, Department of Rural Development; Regional Labour Institute, Shillong (DGFASLI); Confederation of small growers association; Assam Branch of Indian Tea Association (ABITA); North Eastern Tea Association (NETA); Assam Tea Planters’ Association; All Bodoland Small Tea Growers Association; The Organic Small Tea Growers Association of North East India; Confederation of Indian Small Tea-Growers’ Associations (CISTA).

Local level:
Tea sector workers, especially women, Management representatives of plantations and bought leave factories, Small holders & their associations, Agriculture Development Offices, Labour Inspection Offices, Workers’ representatives, Employers’ representatives, Local municipalities.

In particular, outcome 3.2 of the DWCP aims at ensuring that by 2022, national and state labour administration systems have revised OSH-related regulatory frameworks and implemented a national OSH programme. The project will directly contribute to CPO IND178 - By 2022, women and men workers and enterprises benefit from safe and health workplaces.

Project contribution to Decent Work Country Programme

The project aligns to outcome 3.2 of the India Decent Work Country Program (DWCP) that’s aims at ensuring that by 2022, national and state labour administration systems have revised OSH-related regulatory frameworks and implemented a national OSH programme. The project will directly contribute to CPO IND178 - By 2022, women and men workers and enterprises benefit from safe and health workplaces.

For linkages to Sustainable Development Goals and ILO Programme and Budget, please see “Safety + Health for All Plantation Workers in South Asia”.

For further information, please contact:

Ms Bharti Birla
Chief Technical Advisor, South Asia
+91-11- 4750 9240

Ms Kanagarani Selvakumar
National Project Coordinator