Mumbai:Tata Global Beverages Ltd (TGBL) will commission an independent audit of living and working conditions of workers at the Nahorani tea estate in Assam that is jointly financed by TGBL and the World Bank.

On 1 March, the UK’s Guardian newspaper reported, “Slave traders took girls as young as 11 from an Indian plantation that supplies tea to Tetley (a UK-based Tata company) and sold them on to a life of abuse as domestic servants, an investigation has revealed."

Tata Global Beverages said in an e-mailed response, “we decided last week to commission an independent third party audit on living and working conditions in the tea plantations and will address any areas and issues identified, to go over and above legal norms."

Guardian alleged workers on the estate are paid Rs94 a day—barely half the Rs169 legal minimum wage for Assam—adding, “anti-slavery campaigners say the low wages help traffickers to lure girls away with the promise of a better life elsewhere."

However, TGBL said, “The tea plantation company described in the Guardian article is APPL (Amalgamated Plantations Pvt. Ltd), an independently managed company in which Tata Global Beverages is one of the shareholders. APPL management has confirmed to us that they comply with paying the minimum wages as mandated by law for the tea industry in Assam."

APPL did not respond to an e-mail sent by Mint.

On 14 February, Press Trust of India news agency reported that the World Bank’s audit arm Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO) will investigate claims of labour and human rights abuses at a tea plantation project in Assam that is jointly financed by Tata Global Beverages and World Bank’s International Finance Corporation.

TGBL holds 41% of APPL, and the remaining shares are held by IFC and other investors.

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