Launch of Fair Price Shop & Renovation of medical dispensaries at 04 estates of Chamong Plantation in Darjeeling, West Bengal

A collaborative funding effort between Chamong Tee Exports and a German commercial partner.


As a part of the ‘Fairtrade North, East India Tea Strategy’ launched in  2017 to establish strong, resilient and secure tea planting communities in North East India, a Fairtrade commercial partner from Germany co-joined their efforts with Fairtrade Germany to engage with the tea producers beyond commercial transactions and to play an influential role along the supply chain.  In a collaborative funding effort with support from NAPP, a German commercial partner, and Fairtrade Germany, 250.000 EUR in total were invested for implementing several projects in Assam and West Bengal by Chamong Tee Exports Pvt Ltd.

Pic: Pic: Fairtrade NAPP Team (  Sanjeet Singh Khurana- NAPP COO,  Ranjith Kumar- Regional General Manager, Subhra Tudu Prakash- Program Consultant ) along with Indranil Ghosh-Director of Chamong Tee Exports at the launch of the medical dispensary at Sree Dwarika Estate

As a part of the ‘Fairtrade North, East India Tea Strategy’ launched in  2017 to establish strong, resilient and secure tea planting communities in North East India, a Fairtrade commercial partner from Germany co-joined their efforts with Fairtrade Germany to engage with the tea producers beyond commercial transactions and to play an influential role along the supply chain.  In a collaborative funding effort with support from NAPP, a German commercial partner, and Fairtrade Germany, 250.000 EUR in total were invested for implementing several projects in Assam and West Bengal by Chamong Tee Exports Pvt Ltd.

Indranil Ghosh; Director of Operations, Chamong Tee Exports Pvt. Ltd mentions;

“ It is a pleasure for Chamong Tee Groups to be associated with Fairtrade and NAPP. As a part of the funding partnership with our German commercial partner we have conducted a series of welfare programs for our workers. In 2019 we co-funded a ‘ Ladies Football tournament’ among 18 tea gardens as a morale boost for our women workers which was very well received by the community.  We have upgraded medical dispensaries and set up COVID 19 ward in 04 tea estates with a total investment of  33 lakh from our commercial partner and 25 lakhs from Chamong. Sanitary napkin vending machines have also been installed at 03 estates where our workers can buy napkins at an affordable rate of 2.50 INR. Additionally, provisions are being made for organising a Training on Women’s Menstrual health and hygiene to the workers. It has been our dream for the past 10 years to set up a cooperative where workers can be supplied with food essentials at a dealer’s price. Today we are finally launching the Fair Price Shop too”

Launch of Fair Price Shop at Sree Dwarika Tea Estate

On October 27th 2021, a Fair Price shop was launched in Sree Dwarika Tea Estate. The workers here receive their wages on a  weekly basis but the day when they receive their wage, is also when the local retail shops artificially inflate the prices of all the goods included in the basket of goods of the tea workers. The tea workers end up spending more against the quantity they receive for products that are not of good quality. This pattern of consumption has a negative impact on their savings as a result their economic conditions are of below average standards.

To address the issue a Fair price was set up for providing basic essentials to the workers at the MRP rate or a lesser rate than the MRP. This will help the tea workers to save more and use their savings for other aspects of living.

With the support of a third-party NGO  an analysis was conducted through a series of field visits and meetings with the tea community members, management and Cooperative Department.  The need intervention was crucial to understand the economic status of the workers, to identify their basket of goods and consumption pattern and to assess the level of financial literacy of staff and committee members to run the Fair Price shops.

The community members, who wish to be a part of the FPS, are required to first register with the FPS and pay a share capital amount as per the standard set up by the FPS. Upon successful payment of the share amount and falling under the member criteria, one can become a part of the FPS and avail its benefits. In addition to that, the members are required to pay a registration fee of INR 300 which will entitle them to an onboarding kit.  Currently, the shop is opened for 3 days a week and is managed by the Fair Price Shop Committee Manager and a helper. The Project has also helped them generate an additional income as their salaries for 06 months will be covered under the Project, thereafter which they will be paid out of the additional revenue generated from the shop.

The Results of the Project will be :-

  1. Affordable basket of goods 

Ranju Tamang, the Chairperson of Fair Price shop 

“ I have been working in the tea estate for nearly 8 years and have been voted as the Chairperson for the Fair Price Shop Project by the FPS committee members.  We opened the shop mainly for making it cost effective for our workers. It is expensive to procure locally so we transport all the items from Siliguri ( the nearby city)  to the estate at a wholesale rate. We have started the shop with basic essentials and will gradually scale up the varieties of items to bring in.  The shop has made it very convenient for workers to buy their daily essentials at an affordable rate. We  had only two choices earlier, either to buy at a higher rate from the local surrounding shops, or to spend at least an hour or more to travel all the way  to the main town.”

2. Increased Savings

Ravi Jakhmol; who had joined Chamong Tee Estates 8 years back and have been managing Sree Dwarika Tea Estate for the past 4 years mentions,

We started the Fair price shop as a membership cooperative. Though the shop is opened for both members and non-members, the members can avail credit facilities up to their wages date for procuring any items from the shop. Currently we have 110 members who have paid a one- time membership fee of 100 INR. The products are sold to the members at 1 percent lesser cost as compared to others. The margins may vary for different products from 1 to 5 %and sometimes even 10%.It is important for the shop to generate a steady revenue for bringing in the next batch of monthly stock. After we run the shop for a month, we can analyse the estimate of how much a worker is able to save from their monthly expenses. Suppose we get the goods at a whole sale price from Siliguri ( the main city) with an approximate 5 to 7 percent less cost, and we sell it to the workers by keeping a margin of 2 percent, the final cost still works out cheaper by 3 to 4 percent lesser cost for the workers as compared to buying it locally or from Darjeeling ( the main town). 

3. Better Standard of Living

Subhra Tudu Prakash; Fairtrade Program Consultant; North East India
 Through the support of Fairtrade, a German commercial partner and Chamong , the impacts generated along the supply chain are also transmitted to the workers directly in the form of free health check-ups, medicines, affordable sanitary napkins, upgraded dispensaries and separate COVID-19 wards. The concept of  Fair Price shop on the other hand will allow the workers to purchase their daily essentials at a lesser rate than the market. They are able to save better and utilise that money for funding their children’s education and meeting additional expenses.

4. Better Levels of Financial Literacy

Post the analysis by the third party, 09 candidates of the staff and committee were trained on all aspects of shop management including maintaining books and Human Resource. The tea management and the workers are also looking at setting up a system for cashless transaction in the future for all the workers where the amount of purchase from the Fair price shop can be deducted directly from their wages over a period of a few cycles.

Renovation of Medical dispensaries and setting up of COVID Isolation ward at Marybong, Lingia, Tumsong & Shree Dwarika 

The medical dispensaries in Marybong, Lingia, Tumsong & Shree Dwarika  tea estates  that remained in an appalling state have been fully renovated for securing the health and safety of its workers. Each of the dispensaries are fully equipped with all the primary health care facilities ( medical supplies and equipment) and a COVID 19 Isolation ward with oximeters and oxygen concentrators. There are permanent doctors, nurses and health staff available at all times. Each of the dispensary has a  dressing room, hospital beds with saline water equipment and provisions are also made for refrigerators, water filters and clean washrooms. There are records maintained for all the medical check ups and consultations.

During COVID 19 there are high chances of contracting lung infection during which the patient lack oxygen. At such time the moment the oximeter reading goes below 90% we start the oxygen concentrator. We got the oximeter and oxygen cylinder at the right time. In the last 03 months the oximeter has been sent to be used by  07 seven homes.

Indranil Ghosh; Director of Operations

Isnamika Rai; the doctor at the medical dispensary at the Sree Dwarika Tea estate mentions,
 I started working at the dispensary 03 months back, prior to which I was working at Siliguri ( the nearby city ). There has been no COVID cases till date, most of the patients report with general ailments such as fever, cough, cold, minor allergy. I also go to the villages to check the patients when they are too sick to come to the dispensary. In case of anything serious we refer them to Eden Hospital at Darjeeling main town.

Sharda Rai is an Auxiliary Nursing midwife ; a village-level female health worker in the Marbong community. She has been implementing national health programmes such as children immunization  and health awareness program in the local community since 2007. Since the district hospital where she is posted is approx. 20 kms away, she also comes to the estate dispensary regularly to  cater to the patients.

Santosh Kumar Kaushal, Manager  of Marybong Tea estate ,
The dispensary which was inaugurated today was in a very poor condition before. It was a wooden construction made two years back. Now with the support of Fairtrade it has been renovated fully and equipped with all the medical supplies and instrument that a dispensary requires. COVID 19  ward has also been constructed in all the 03 divisions here. We have permanent nurses, staff and compounders and in case of serious emergency the cases are referred to the main hospital in Darjeeling. The workers community are happy and secure with the facilities and arrangements made and the management will continue to maintain the dispensary as the workers and staff are our responsibility. We hope to continue receiving support from Fairtrade in the long run through which the medical infrastructure can be improved more. “

Sanjana a health staff at the Marybong Tea Estate mentions
We were happy to welcome officials from Fairtrade NAPP who had the main vision for reconstructing the dispensaries for the welfare of our community.  I speak from the experience of working as a tea plucker for the past 20 years and as a health staff in the dispensary since the last 13 years. The dispensary was constructed during the British era, thereafter the  condition has remained so worse  that the villagers refrained from going to the hospital for the fear of contracting diseases.

The old dispensary reminds me of a cottage with sunken floors temporarily fixed with wooden planks. The planks were fixed by us to make it easier to walk inside as our feet would get caught under large pits. Cleaning the dispensary was another challenge in itself but we somehow managed to keep it clean. Post the renovation it now has  tiled floors and a well-equipped medical store. It is very easy to sanitise and maintain the much-needed standard of health and hygiene. On behalf of all the workers and the health staff we express our sincere gratitude to the efforts of the Fairtrade community. “

Installation of Sanitary Napkin Vending Machine at Marybong, Lingia & Tumsong

To promote safe and hygienic- sanitary practices among women workers and staff 09 vending machines have been installed in each of the tea estates  and offices in Marybong, Lingia & Tumsong where 70 % of the women workforce are involved. The cost is fixed at an affordable rate of  2.50 INR/ napkin which sums up to an approx. expense of  20 INR per month for each worker.  Each of the estates are provided with 03 machines and 40,000 sanitary napkins ( total 120000 napkins) out of which 12000 napkins have been sold off.

Manju Pradhan, a nurse who has been working at the dispensary for the past 06 years mentions,
It is very difficult for women who work at the estate to cope up with the sudden menstrual cycle. The estates are located miles away from any medical or essential stories. The provision of wending machine at every estate is a basic need that can ensure an effective, safe and convenient mode for the women workers and staff for any time access to sanitary napkins. I am happy to see so many facilities are being set up for the workers

Sanjeet Singh Khurana, NAPP COO mentions,

It is great to witness and be a part of the launch of several activities being implemented by Chamong Tee Exports for the welfare of  the workers and their communities. The partnership agreement under ‘Fairtrade North, East India Tea Strategy’ has proved to be very effective in socially empowering the grass root workers in the tea sector with better access to health and medical support and enhanced livelihood. This will be a  long-term benefit for the workers, their families and communities.”