from the ‘The Ugly Beverage’ series

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“‘The Ugly Beverage’ is a story of tea—but in a way that has never been told before.

When someone talks about tea and tea gardens, a picture of lush green plantations filled with the beautiful, happy-looking faces of workers comes to mind. Indeed, that’s the way big corporations would like these gardens to be portrayed to the outside world.

My project offers a different picture and a different truth: a darker one, about starvation, malnutrition, epidemics, human trafficking, illiteracy, superstitions and hopelessness.

After my graduation from the Delhi School of Economics, I completed a dissertation on the Plantation Labor Act of 1951. My research delved into the various labor issues related to the closed and abandoned tea plantations in the Dooars region of West Bengal. As I discovered, while tea plantations have been exploitative for generations, but they also provide much needed employment and revenue. When a tea garden closes, social fabrics begin to unravel…

After completing this written work, I started a photo project to further explore the aspects of the workers’ lives. I intend for these photographs to cover the socio-economic struggles of these people along with their hopes, dreams and the every day struggle to survive.”

Ashutosh Shaktan

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