From Workers Inoculation Camp and Rapid Antigen Tests to setting- up medical dispensaries and oxygen concentrators, the Chamong Tee Exports have left no stones unturned for securing the life of its workers, families, and communities.

With the rise in the number of cases in India, the fear of COVID-19 continues to spread in India’s tea estates, most are in areas with no proper health infrastructure and limited or no access to transportation or internet facilities. The workers face challenges in registering in the online vaccine registration portal and will need to walk for 30 to 40 kilometers to reach the vaccination centers. As such, they remain exposed to high vulnerability and their vaccination has become a high priority for the tea industry. Though the Government has announced free vaccination but assessing the current vaccine availability with the Govt., it would be a huge challenge to cover the entire population of the tea estates in a short term.

With the help of the Govt. Health Department, Chamong Tee Exports Pvt. Ltd, FLO ID 1567, a Fairtrade certified multi-estate plantation in West Bengal, has organised a ‘COVID 19 Inoculation Camp’ in each of the 3 tea estates:  Shree Dwarika Tea Estate, Soom Tea Estate & Nagrifarm Tea Estate in Darjeeling, and Maud Tea Estate, FLO ID 39546, a Fairtrade certified plantation in Assam. The organization mentions the biggest challenge is the availability and the timely procurement of the vaccine. Maintaining cold chain storage transportation of these vaccines to the tea estates located in the remotest part of India is another hurdle.

Asha Bawri and Bijoy Tasa are among the workers who received the vaccination at the L.P School of Maud Tea Estate organized on 20th May 2021.

Asha Bawri mentions that post the vaccine shot, she felt a slight feverish, but the garden hospital provided some medicine and now she is okay. She feels good that the garden management has organized this vaccination camp and it will help them to receive the vaccine very easily. Without this provision, the workers would need to go to the Govt. hospital and the chances of them getting infected remain more.

The Inoculation Program was a part of the ‘COVID 19 Preparedness and Response Plan for Workers Safety’ undertaken by Chamong as an immediate measure to secure and protect the health and wellbeing of its plantation workers. The vaccination was provided for the entire community residing within the 04 tea estate boundaries. Currently, 439 workers and 291 family members have been inoculated with the first dose.

Rupa Rai, a tea plucker at Shree Dwarika Tea mentions- “After the vaccination, I feel protected from Corona Virus. I want to thank the company and the garden management for organizing the camp. It has helped us immensely since we do not have to travel for long distances to receive the vaccine. It has also made it very convenient and safe for the older people and vulnerable people in the community.”

The organisation is also in advance level of discussions with the private health care establishments to arrange for the vaccines in a timely and efficient manner. The execution of the project remains a daunting task since the target is administering approximately 40,000 vaccines covering two dosages for the entire community residing in the group tea estates

Rapid antigen tests are being arranged for all the workers in every estate with the help of the district health departments to identify the possible infections. The tests are being carried to identify, isolate and provide necessary treatment and recovery.

Chamong Tee Group is also on the verge of completing the extension of the existing tea estate dispensaries to accommodate COVID-19 isolation wards. It has been constructed in 4 Tea Estates of Darjeeling, namely, Shree Dwarika Tea Estate, Marybong Tea Estate, Lingia Tea Estate & Tumsong Tea Estate. It is a pilot project supported by one of their buyers in Germany. Chamong also proposes to expand this project in all the remaining tea estates of Darjeeling and Assam.

Regular awareness campaigns are carried out through public address systems that keep the entire community aware of the COVID-19 spread and its precautionary methods. Since 2020, periodic sanitisation drives are organised in all the villages within the tea estate boundary. Additionally, the workers and the estate communities are regularly provided with face masks, soaps and hand sanitizers. 

The maintenance of Social Distancing during Weighment and Wage Distribution is being strictly monitored by the supervisory and managerial staff.

During the outbreak of COVID in 2020, when the Govt. of India declared a sudden nationwide lockdown, a huge population of direct wage labourers and workers were unable to receive their wages on time, due to the restrictions in the movement and gathering of people. Chamong was the first tea group to take the initiative of remitting the salaries and wages of its staff and workers (permanent & temporary) through online transfer to their respective bank accounts at the Darjeeling Tea Estates.

To support the communities residing in the estates and who are currently in Home Isolation for suspected contact with Covid-19 positive patients, the tea garden managements have proactively taken the initiative to provide food essentials to them.

Keeping in mind the scarcity of oxygen support that India is facing during the COVID-19 surge, the Fairtrade Premium Committees have also decided to procure and install 01 oxygen concentrator at each of the tea estates, in addition to the existing oxygen cylinders available in the estate dispensary which are organised by the Chamong Group. The oxygen concentrators shall be a huge additional support for severe COVID-19 cases when needed. Chamong Group and the Fairtrade Premium Members are already in negotiations with reputed suppliers of oxygen concentrators to be procured and installed at the earliest.

The level of preparations and responses planned by Chamong has created a safe working environment for the workers and their communities and instilled a sense of togetherness among the workers, management, and communities to see this crisis through together.