Bal Raksha Bharat Champions Child Welfare in Assam’s Tea Gardens

Bal Raksha Bharat Champions Child Welfare in Assam's Tea Gardens

Bal Raksha Bharat Champions Child Welfare in Assam's Tea Gardens

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Assam, India – June 12, 2024 – Bal Raksha Bharat, the leading child rights organization, has taken proactive steps towards children’s wellbeing in the tea industry of Assam. About 20% of Assam’s population (6.5 million) is directly associated with tea plantations.  This World Day Against Child Labour 2024, amidst the picturesque landscapes and thriving tea plantations of Assam, Bal Raksha Bharat is highlighting the stark reality – the prevalence of working children in this vital sector of the state’s economy.  Till 2022, Bal Raksha Bharat has reached directly to 21054 children and adults (12177 in 2022) and indirectly 30522 children and adults (17575in 2022). Discussions were held with local Gram Panchayats leaders, Tea Garden Management and associations of tea industry for identifying the most vulnerable.

Aligned with the global theme ‘Let’s act on our commitments: End Child Labour!, Bal Raksha Bharat has been at the forefront of addressing this issue, working tirelessly to ensure a brighter, safer future for children in tea-producing communities. Memorandum of Understanding has been signed between All Assam Small Tea Growers Association and Bal Raksha Bharat to jointly address child rights issues. Bal Raksha Bharat will support them to strengthen their business by the collectivisation of Small Tea Growers (STGs) and enhancing market linkages of their product. This pivotal partnership signifies a concerted effort to cultivate a nurturing environment for children within the tea industry, laying the groundwork for sustainable change. 

In the past, Bal Raksha Bharat and Tea Association of India have jointly organized a consultation on ‘Business and Child Rights in Tea Supply Chain’. The objective was to create a platform for various stakeholders including tea growers, producers, associations, marketing companies, NGOs, UN, Government, and academia to deliberate on the current scenario and agree on way forward in realizing the rights of children and community.

Since 2021, Bal Raksha Bharat has demonstrated unwavering commitment and strategic engagement with various stakeholders, including Assam Police, government bodies, trade unions, educational institutions, and industry associations. Through collaborative efforts, BRB has advanced the child rights agenda, fostering a joint approach towards safeguarding children from exploitation and promoting their holistic development with a series of strategic engagements with Assam Police, government entities, trade unions, educational institutions, and industry associations, forging alliances to safeguard children’s rights and well-being.Mr. Sudarshan Suchi, Chief Executive Officer of Bal Raksha Bharat shared, “This flagship project of Bal Raksha Bharat in the Tea Plantation areas of Assam, initiated in 2021 and extended till 2026, has achieved remarkable success. By reaching out to 10 major tea plantations, engaging 3000 plantation workers, and collaborating with 2000 small tea growers across Jorhat and Dibrugarh districts, we’ve made significant strides in our mission. Our efforts have yielded three pivotal outcomes: empowering adolescent groups and communities to safeguard children from harm and exploitation, fostering understanding and implementation of Child Rights and Business Principles within the tea supply chain, and enhancing the capacity and coordination of government child protection workforce to address pertinent issues in the state. This ongoing initiative stands as a beacon of hope, demonstrating our unwavering commitment to ensuring a brighter future for the children of Assam.” 

“About 20% of Assam’s population (6.5 million) is directly associated with about 800 large tea plantations While the region is renowned for producing more than 50% of Indian tea, it’s a paradox that the people in tea production, from plucking, to withering, to final packaging,  are particularly alienated from the mainstream of development and record low progress on human development indicators particularly in the areas of the level of education, health and sanitation, housing condition, nutrition, per capita income etc. of the communities are significantly poor.”, adds Mr. Abhijeet Nirmal, Deputy Director, Child Protection Bal Raksha Bharat.

Bal Raksha Bharat has also been championing knowledge sharing, capacity building programs, and community-based research, fostering a culture of empowerment and enlightenment with esteemed institutions like Dibrugarh University and Assam Agricultural University. With Dibrugarh University, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has been signed for a joint collaborative approach for holistic community development focusing on children and women. This initiative is aimed at knowledge sharing and initiation of academic programmes and curriculum related to child rights, capacity-building training programme for students and relevant stakeholders on child rights and child protections, documentation of best practices including community-based action research. These efforts culminate in district-level interventions, where Bal Raksha Bharat facilitates coordination meetings, proposes need assessments, and spearheads child protection plans in tandem with local authorities, underscoring the organization’s commitment to grassroots impact and institutional strengthening. Sensitization workshops, stakeholder consultations, and the development of innovative monitoring tools such as the ‘Digital Monitoring and Reporting Application’ exemplify Bal Raksha Bharat’s multifaceted approach to combating child labour.