Strong tea, tough life
Each worker at tea plantations has a sad story to narrate. Among the worker's are cancer patients who do not get necessary treatment and those who have been reduced to a vegetable due to accidents during work. The workers, who have lived three- fourth of their lives braving the snow, rain and leech bites , do not have even a single happy moment to remember in their whole life. The Munnar agitation was not against the company alone. It was against trade union leaders who cheated them. It was also an agitation against the torture inflicted by middle class employees of the company. The agitation stemmed from a class of people who were denied even the basic needs of life and who were working as slaves. Apart from this, horrible condition of dwellings, lack of treatment facilities and poor quality of education for children contributed to the eruption of the agitation. When the hopelessness, sorrow and protest led to the agitation, nobody could say their demands were not just. A journey undertaken by Mathrubhumi photographer P.P. Ratheesh into the lives of plantation workers of Idukki.
Plantation
NOT AT ALL A GREEN PASTURE: Pointing her fingers towards the peak of the sleep hill, Gomathi asked “Do you see that green shade atop the hills? Those are tea plants and we have to scale these heights. On the way we confront elephants sometime. A minor slip from the heights can cost you your life. We make the up and down journey carrying 75-100 kg of leaves. Switching over to Tamil from Malayalam he asked “Do you know how many persons have fallen to death so far?
A prayer
ALL IN YOUR HANDS: Shanmughavel of Silent Valley division, prays after offering the idol the flowers he collected from the bungalow near plantation.
Women workers
LIKE CATTLE: Women workers being transported in a lorry. A scene from Vagamon.
A labourer
A labourer carrrying her ward to crèche before the commencement of work
Women workers
Women carrying their children on the way to plantations. They have to walk several kilometers to reach many of the tea estates. A scene from Pambanar.
Elephants
The wild elephants seen among the vegetation. Victims of animal attack can be seen in many the dwellings of the labourers .
A worker
A women who was brought from Jharkhand for plucking leaves at an estate in Elappara.
Workers
A plucking session commences
Spraying pesticide
Seen here is a worker engaged in spraying pesticides without any protection gears. Owing to such practice the labourers say many have fallen victims to deadly diseases like cancer while many suffer from skin diseases.
Resting workers
A TEA BREAK ESCAPING THE SUPERVISOR’S EYE: Gomathi says there were occasions when the labourers were forced to throw away tea cups and rush to work. Else they would get a mouthful from the boss.
Leech bite
This worker, who was bitten by leeches while plucking leaves, uses paper to cover the wounds and prevent bleeding
School children
For a better tomorrow: Students going to Koodaravila government higher secondary school. The students say that they walk eight kilometres daily to reach the school . the students say that they often see wild animals while going to the school.
School children
The wait: Children waiting for vehicles to go to school. A scene from pettimudi.
Living conditions of workers
People live here: Crumbled and broken shacks of workers
Plantation workers shacks
People live here: Crumbled and broken shacks of workers
Plantation workers at Munnar
People live here: Crumbled and broken shacks of workers.
Plantation workers at Munnar
After a hard days work braving the cold and rain, workers return to their shacks carrying wood for cooking.
Plantation workers at Munnar
Workers returning to the office with the plucked tea leaves at 5 Pm. A scene from Lakkad estate
Plucked tea leaves
A day’s labour: Plucked tea leaves clubbed together for weighing.
Plantation worker in Munnar
The second stage: Woman worker going to weign the plucked tea leaves
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