TEA NEWS: 20% bonus for ATCL sought

TEA NEWS: 20% bonus for ATCL sought – keeping in line with the empathy shown in Darjeeling for Pujas ?!!

FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT

Jorhat, Sept. 20: The Assam Tea Tribes Students’ Association has urged Dispur to announce a 20 per cent bonus for the 15 debt-ridden Assam Tea Corporation Limited gardens for Durga Puja.

The Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha (ACMS), the apex body of tea workers in the state, has also urged the government to announce a rate of bonus higher than last year’s 14 per cent for the ATCL gardens.

ATTSA general secretary Pallab Lochan Das said the government should take the lead in announcing and paying 20 per cent bonus at the earliest to ATCL workers.

Dispur had recently requested the tea industry to pay 20 per cent bonus and had also asked the garden managements to settle the bonus rate by September 25 and pay the same by October 5. While McLeod Russell Industries Ltd and Warren Tea Company had earlier agreed to pay bonus at a rate of 20 per cent, five more companies — Assam Frontier Tea Company, Grob Tea Company, Jalan Group of Industries, Andrew Yule Tea Comapnay and Assam Company Ltd — today declared 20 per cent bonus, adds our Dibrugarh correspondent.

Das said the Congress government had time and again boasted of “doing a lot” for the welfare of tea tribes but had never given a 20 per cent bonus to the lakhs of ATCL workers in the nine years that it had been in power. Last year’s bonus rate of 14 per cent was much below the 17-20 per cent paid by other gardens.

He said the government should pay a maximum rate of 20 per cent on the actual daily wage rate of Rs 66.50 and not on the reduced rate paid by most bankrupt ATCL gardens because of the losses incurred by them.

Das said the ATCL workers and their families have been suffering for over a decade as the gardens went bankrupt and the government should help them celebrate an important festival that the community has been celebrating in a big way since the time of British planters.

ACMS general secretary Dileshwar Tanti said over phone from Dibrugarh that the organisation was pushing hard for a rate of bonus higher than in the previous year for the ATCL gardens.

Tanti, a former legislator, said ACMS president Paban Singh Ghatowar, who is also the Dibrugarh Lok Sabha MP, was in touch with chief minister Tarun Gogoi over the matter. “We are requesting the government to increase the bonus rate over last year’s 14 per cent,” Tanti said.

He said the ACMS was not asking for 20 per cent bonus taking reality into account. But since the industry had performed better last year and most of the gardens were likely to pay 20 per cent bonus this year, the ATCL workers and their families would feel left out if given a low rate.

A top government official, who is close to the chief minister, said the matter was under consideration and a decision would be taken soon.

Political watchers feel with polls round the corner, the government was likely to increase the bonus rate for the ATCL gardens.

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