Published: 01/10/2010

A report commissioned by the IUF and released today details extensive human rights violations at the Tata-controlled Powai Tea Estate in Assam, India. In Cold Blood: Death By Poison, Death By Bullets examines the death in May this year of 25 year-old Powai worker Gopal Tanti, who collapsed at work while spraying pesticides. Mr Tanti was denied medical treatment and left to die in the field.

The investigation reveals that workers on this estate habitually spray and handle highly toxic chemicals without minimal protective clothing and other essential precautionary measures. The investigation shows that even after Gopal Tanti’s death, these practices continue.

When workers on the plantation spontaneously gathered to protest Tanti’s death, police opened fire without warning, killing 2 persons (both the sons of Powai Tea Estate workers) and seriously injuring at least 15. One of the victims, Ranjit Paharia, died from blood loss, the other, Deep Sona, died of a gun shot to the back.

These events took place on May 28. In July, at the request of trade unions in Assam, the IUF convened a team of trade unionists and legal experts to investigate the deaths and the events surrounding them. The investigation had to be abruptly terminated because of threats by management at Powai.

The 930 hectare Powai estate has one of the world’s largest tea-processing factories and employs some 1,800 permanent and 1,200 temporary workers. The estate is owned by Amalgamated Plantations Private Limited (APPL) a company controlled by Tata Global Beverages. The World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) is one of APPL’s shareholders

Tata and APPL are already under fire for brutal attacks on tea workers and their rights in West Bengal.

Tata, through Tata Global Beverages (formerly Tata Tea), are owners of the Tetley brand, one of the world’s highest selling teas and market leaders in the UK, Australia, New Zealand and North America.