The Indian Tea Association, one of the main petitioners in the Gauhati High Court challenging the interim wage revision for tea workers, has decided to increase the daily wages by Rs 26.

Assam’s BJP-led government, ahead of the assembly polls, had increased the daily wages of tea workers to Rs 217 from Rs 167.

Tea wages are a bitterly debated issue in Assam polls.

The high court has given tea estates the liberty to pay the workmen any interim enhancement of their wages as they deem proper till the issue is finally decided by the court.

The national committee of the association reviewed the court direction at a meeting on Sunday and decided to enhance the wages by Rs 26 per day to workers in the Brahmaputra Valley and the Barak Valley with effect from February 22 this year.

The Congress has made tea wage hike an election issue. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said that if voted to power, within six hours it would increase the daily wages to Rs 365.

The Congress is campaigning that the BJP-led government had promised to hike the daily wages to Rs 350 per day, but didn’t meet it.

Tea tribe votes which have a major influence in determining the winners in 30-35 seats have gravitated to the BJP in the 2016 assembly polls.

Assam has more than 10 lakh tea workers in the organised sector, working in about 850 big estates. The state produces roughly 55% of India’s tea. The tea belts of Brahmaputra and Barak valleys are home to more than 60 lakh people.

The bilateral wage agreement between the workers’ union and industry expired in December 2017. The BJP-led government had formed a committee to revise the minimum wages.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Bokakhat on Sunday said the Congress had neglected the welfare of the tea community.

“We have increased the tea wages. Some problems have come up due as the matter is in court. Action will be taken in this regard once our government comes back. We have come up with a Rs 1,000 package for welfare of tea tribe people,” he said.

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