Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has assured tea workers, who have been landless for almost 150 years, of rights to their land.
"Bangabandhu provided the tea workers' rights to vote, citizenship, and it cannot be that they remain landless. I will definitely provide them the rights to land," the prime minister said in a virtual exchange meeting on Saturday afternoon.
"I will definitely make arrangements so that all the tea workers get a house, especially the rights to land. If there is no right to land, a man has no respect," the premier told the workers virtually connected from Sylhet, Habiganj, Moulvibazar and Chattogram.
"The government is working so that no one remains landless in Bangladesh. Houses are being built for the landless and the tea workers will not be landless either," she added.
In reference to education of tea workers' children, she said, "There are schools in the tea gardens. I will take initiatives to nationalise these schools and talk to the Ministry of Education."
She also stressed the need for improving the treatment facilities in tea garden areas. She said ambulances and doctors should be kept in every garden.
The government will take the initiative to set up community clinics next to every garden, she added.
In view of the demand of women tea workers for maternity leave of 6 months, she said, "It is a very fair demand. The job of tea workers is a very risky one. I will take measures to make their maternity leave 6 months."
The prime minister also showed the golden bangles she received from tea workers as a gift.
"You have come to Ganabhaban with gifts for me. I have never received such an expensive gift, such honour in my life. You gave it to me by saving Tk1-Tk2. It is an absolute gift of my life," she said.
Eight tea garden workers from four districts spoke at the virtual meeting.
Rani De, a worker at the Karnaphuli tea plantation in Chattogram, told The Business Standard that they sought the prime minister's cooperation to provide education to their children, increase the amount of ration and ensure medical care.
"We are glad that she spoke to us today, feeling the plight of the tea workers. We thank her for the cooperation she announced about our land rights," she added.
Niranjan Nath Montu, president of Bangladesh Tea Workers Union, Chattogram Valley, said, "Our long-standing demand was to get land rights. Today the prime minister also assured us that tea workers will have their land rights. We hope this announcement will be implemented soon."
He also said that the suffering of tea workers was unknown to the policy makers of the country. People all over the country have felt our pain during the movement.
"The prime minister also learned about our plight and quickly increased the wages. She also held a conference call with us. For this, on behalf of the 16 thousand tea workers of 23 tea gardens in Chattogram region, I express my gratitude to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina," he added.