TEA WATCH: Kanthalguri to go organic

TEA WATCH: Kanthalguri to go organic

Better days ahead: The factory of the Kanthalguri tea estate that will reopen on June 2

AVIJIT SINHA

Siliguri, May 28: Kanthalguri Tea Estate, which will reopen on June 2 after eight years, will be developed on the lines of Makaibari not only in terms of organic production but also participatory management where “workers will be partners”.

“We have a plan to uproot the tea bushes and start organic production, the future of the industry that can largely contribute to the sustainable development of the garden as well as those associated with it,” said Rajah Banerjee, the owner of Makaibari Tea Estate, today — a day after Calcutta-based Airon Private Limited announced the take-over of Kanthalguri

Banerjee, who is associated with Airon, said: “We have decided to adopt the holistic approach of participatory management where workers will be partners and together we will strive for comprehensive development of the garden and produce the best quality of organic tea.”

Efforts would be put in to revive and conserve the environment through the production of bio-gas, maintenance of greenery and render an improved and refreshing look to the garden much like Makaibari.

Dubbed as the “garden of death” — at least 340 worker deaths were reported in the past eight years in Kanthalguri — the estate in Banarhat had closed down on July 14, 2002 with 1,487 workers. Since then, there had been several initiatives to reopen the estate, but the state government found it hard to buy any prospective buyer.

“It was really nice to hear from the representatives of the company yesterday evening that they will reopen Kanthalguri on June 2. It was a long-standing task which we, with the help of all stakeholders, could finally complete,” said Vandana Yadav, the district magistrate of Jalpaiguri.

“In yesterday’s meeting, it was decided that of the 1,112 workers’ families, employment will be provided to one member each,” Yadav said. “In the next seven years, members from the 340 families (where worker deaths were reported) will be provided jobs.”

Usually, a garden worker gets employment for 280 days a year. “As of now, the new management will provide employment for 180 days while the government will offer jobs under the 100-days’ work scheme to make up for the shortage. Other welfare schemes will continue,” an official said.

Trade union leaders have welcomed the move. “Kanthalguri was like a nightmare,” said Mani Kumar Darnal, the joint general secretary of the Intuc-affiliated National Union of Plantation Workers. “It is indeed an achievement that the garden will finally open.”

Tea workers demand wage hike outside pact

FROM THE HINDU
BY INDRANI DUTTA

May 27, 2010: Tea workers are demanding a slice of the improved fortune that the industry has been enjoying for some time with prices ruling firm for nearly two years in a row. They are demanding an interim wage hike outside the existing accord saying they need protection against the current inflationary spiral. Although a three-year tripartite wage agreement was sealed between the industry, the workers and the government in May 2008, the workers employed in many gardens of the Dooars, Darjeeling and Terai regions in north Bengal are demanding a wage-hike saying that they should get an interim wage increase to buffer against the increase in prices of essential commodities, especially food items. They also want a wage board for the tea industry.

Through the two tripartite meetings that have been held so far, one in the presence of the state labour minister and the other in the labour director’s office, the industry has said that it is unable “to budge on the issue and the workers are requested to wait for the next agreement which falls due in May 2011,” a source in the apex industry association told The Hindu.

EARLIER

Darjeeling tea garden managers’ role suspected in Tamang murder – no more ‘broken leaves’ smuggled in from Nepal ?!!

FROM DAILY NEWS ANALYSIS (DNA)
By Sumanta Ray Chadhuri

Kolkata, Wednesday, May 26, 2010 1:56 IST (DNA): West Bengal Police probing the murder of Gorkha leader Madan Tamang has come across some clues that hint at a nexus between Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) leaders and some present and former tea garden managers in Darjeeling.

It, however, isn’t sure if they played a role in Tamang’s murder.

Darjeeling had witnessed a rise in the growth of small tea gardens, which GJM favoured.

Tamang, however, protested against it claiming that the tea gardens were formed by illegally acquiring fields. “Many tea garden managers in Darjeeling, who were later posted elsewhere, have remained in touch with GJM leaders,” sources said.

“We found clues like mobile phone calls lists and emails, which prove there is a nexus between the two,” police said. In fact, a particular tea garden manager of a reputed Darjeeling tea company is under the scanner.

“Last year although his company transferred him, he still maintained his links with GJM. He frequently came to Darjeeling and held meetings with GJM leaders. He also played an active role in building links between GJM leaders and the present set of tea garden managers in Darjeeling,” he said.

He, however, ruled out the possibility of summoning any tea garden associate.

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