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While some tea garden owners admit that tea garden children are deprived of their rights in many cases, Bangladesh Tea Board authority claims the situation is gradually improving.
“We have directed all the garden owners to ensure education, medicare, sanitation and accommodation facilities for all the children,” said Maj. Gen. Md Abdus Salam Khan, chairman of Bangladesh Tea Board.
Awareness building among the people is very necessary to check child labour and early marriage in teagardens, he said.
“The child rights situation is gradually improving. People are getting aware as well as many garden owners are arranging facilities for the children,” said the tea board chairman.
However, Safwan Choudhury, chairman of Bangladesh Tea Association, a platform of tea garden owners, admitted that rights of children are not protected in every teagarden.
“Those gardens, which are well-managed, have many facilities for children and their rights are protected there. But there are some gardens where children do not get facilities for education, health and nutrition,” he said.
“We hold meeting every month with our association members. In these meeting we elaborate over rights of children. We have continued our efforts to ensure different facilities for all tea garden children,” added Choudhury.
Ali Naki Khan, owner of Rajanagar tea garden in Kulaura upazila, also admitted that rights of children in teagardens are not protected properly.
“In reality, congenial atmosphere for child education is absent in tea gardens. In many gardens there is no government primary school. Although some NGOs are working for expansion of child education, it is not enough against the demand,” he said.
Moreover, many schools are located at far distance from their residences. This discourages children from going to school, he obsered.
Health and sanitation facilities for children at tea gardens are not satisfactory. Due to lack of enforcement of existing laws, child marriage and child labour are still prevailing at the gardens, said Khan.
“As a tea garden owner, I am trying to provide facilities for children to protect their rights. But I cannot say that these are sufficient,” he said.
Both Choudhury and Khan stressed the need for government’s initiative along with support of development organisations to add to efforts of garden owners as necessary steps to protect the rights of children.