Institute for Social and Economic Change
Working Paper: 341
Locating the Historical Past of the Women Tea
Workers of North Bengal
Since the inception of tea industry in North Bengal during the colonial period, women have had an overwhelming presence in this industry in comparison to their overall work participation rates in the state. But their lives and experiences have not received adequate attention in the Indian plantation labour historiography. Using various conventional and non-conventional sources of data, this paper makes an attempt to trace the historical past of the women tea plantation workers of North Bengal, taking into account the hitherto neglected aspects of gendered nature of labour recruitment, migration, labour control practices and so on, through the intermeshing of race, class, ethnicity and sexuality of the actors involved in the process. The paper concludes that some of the convincing reasons behind the marginalisation of women workforce in the tea industry of North Bengal during contemporary times have their roots in the various systems and practices of the colonial past.