Human Rights in the Indian Tea Sector
The tea sector is the largest organized sector in India, employing about 3 million workers on plantations that date from colonial rule and have changed little since. After a crisis in producer prices at the beginning of the millennium, many companies pulled out of plantation production.
One of the two largest companies, Tata Global Beverages, brought the World Bank’s private investment arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), into a complicated scheme to spin off its plantations while it concentrated on more profitable retail marketing of brands. Despite commitments to the IFC and others, early reports suggested that flagrant violations of domestic law and basic rights were occurring on those plantations.
Following wide consultation with unions and NGOs, the Institute investigated conditions at more than a dozen plantations in Assam and West Bengal, and researched the background of the complicated stock deal supported by the IFC. Human Rights Clinic students have traveled to the region and to Washington, D.C. with Professor Peter Rosenblum and Ashwini Sukthankar, an expert on transnational labor issues and adviser to the project. The Institute’s involvement has already led to a compliance audit by the Ombudsman of the IFC and to an extended health and safety audit by the company. Our report "The More Things Change..." The World Bank, Tata and Enduring Abuses on India's Tea Plantations (2014) includes more information on the company and the IFC's role.