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The Dark Side of Tea, India

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India - West Bengal - Dooars Region - Kumari, 9, sits on her aunt's bed at her family home in Mogulkata Tea Estate. Kumari's family has been living in the Tea Estate for 3 generations and she will probably be taking her mother or father's position once they will retire in order to avoid being kicked out of their land and considering the very little job opportunities in a very isolated village. <br />
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India is the second largest tea producer in the world. But while its green leaves are on the shelves of every supermarket and tea boutique across the globe, women workers still live under the remnants of a slavery system conceived under British colonialism.<br />
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Tea is one of the biggest industries in India, accounting for 14 percent of world tea exports and employing 3,5 million people, the vast majority of them women. Here, managers still roam on horses, dressed in sleek shirts and shorts in homage to old British custom. Yet, just few hundred meters away from their leafy offices, more than 2,000 tea workers have died of malnutrition in the past 15 years, while scores of others have ended up working as stonecrushers, maids or prostitutes in a vain attempt to escape misery.<br />
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Uprooted from their ancestral lands and now hosted in isolated, rundown colonies lost amid the plantations, women pluckers earn less than two dollars per day, half the minimum wage set by the government. With their housing, healthcare, education and pension conditional to their lifetime staying in the garden, they have no properties and cannot emigrate, change job or break the chains which have kept them bonded for generations. In the frequent case of tea garden closures, their wages, water supplies and food rations are cut overnight, leaving them with no choice but to starve.