Wed. Jun 12th, 2024

 Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

New Delhi, 27th November 2023: A high level delegation of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), led by Mr. M Hari Menon, Director, India office of the BMGF visited Darjeeling to explore opportunities to collaborate with local stakeholders for supporting tea garden workers of the region. This first visit to Darjeeling by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation was facilitated by Mr. Harsh Vardhan Shringla, President, Darjeeling Welfare Society and former Foreign Secretary of India. Being a native of the hills himself, Mr. Shringla is committed to the welfare of the people of Darjeeling and is leveraging resources and expertise to benefit the communities.

This visit was a good opportunity for the delegation to meet local stakeholders in the Darjeeling region, who are working to create better livelihoods and economic opportunities for tea garden workers, and to explore ways for the Gates Foundation to collaborate in this important endeavour.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is engaged in healthcare, sanitation, education, agriculture, and other critical sectors and is significantly contributing to India’s developmental goals. The visit is an important step towards understanding the unique challenges faced by the local community, particularly the tea garden workers and factory workers. It served as an opportunity to explore innovative solutions to effectively address those challenges, and also explore avenues for supplemental income.
Mr. Harsh Vardhan Shringla, President, Darjeeling Welfare Society and former Foreign Secretary of India said, “We welcome senior representatives from Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, one of the world’s foremost philanthropic organizations on their first visit to the area. Their visit holds immense promise for fostering partnerships, identifying synergies, and leveraging resources to drive meaningful and sustainable progress in Darjeeling.”

There are 87 tea gardens covering 19,000 hectares and engaged in production of ten million kilos of tea annually. These tea gardens employ 52,000 workers that include both factory and garden workers, and majority of them are women. Dependent on the wages of these workers are 200,000 family members. Currently, 72 factories are operational in the region. However, they face a plethora ofchallenges like low wages, company lockout, absence of bonus, land rights, minimum wages, and lack of transportation, health care and the inability of the management to meet basic amenities.

The immediate requirement is to financially empower the workforce through the implementation of a well-planned social forestry programme could be a significant effort to catalyse a much-required change. The programme will focus on both social developments of the tea gardens workers and more importantly at creating supplemental income for the families that work so hard to uphold the legacy of Darjeeling tea.

During their visit the delegation members met the Chief Executive of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA), Mayors of Darjeeling and representatives of local NGOs. They undertook field visits to Makaibari Tea Estate to examine pilot projects for tea garden workers and waste disposal management, etc.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation with an earmarked budget specifically allocated to projects in India, the foundation’s work has been instrumental in healthcare, sanitation, education, agriculture, and other critical sectors, significantly contributing to India’s developmental goals. Itworks with partners to help develop innovative solutions that improve the quality and coverage of services in priority states, particularly Bihar and Uttar Pradesh as well as Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, and Maharashtra, where it supportsprograms in sanitation, agricultural development, gender equality, and digital financial inclusion.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BGMF) is an American private foundation established by Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates. Based in Seattle, Washington, it was launched in 2000 and is reported as of 2020 to be the second largest charitable foundation in the world, holding $69 billion in assets.

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