TEA VIOLENCE: Tea manager faces women’s festive fury – first signs of communal tensions compounded by Bengal’s non empathetic management style ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Alipurduar, Nov. 5: Nearly 300 women workers pounced on a garden manager here this morning, dragging him for at least 20 metres, tearing his clothes and beating him up — the assault coming after their demand that they be allowed to work together on Diwali was rejected.
Manager P. Pal Choudhury of Torsha Tea Garden, who was rescued almost an hour later by Jaigaon police, said nobody had come to his help. “A few managerial staff members were around but they did not come to my rescue,” the 50-year-old manager said.
Garden sources said the men workers had allegedly warned the office staff to stay away when the women confronted Pal Choudhury. However, one of the employees denied the allegation. “There were only four-five of us at that time. Given the workers’ fury, we could do nothing,” he said.
The assault comes two days after Pal Choudhury issued a notice asking all 300 women to discharge their duty in different sections of the garden on Diwali. While 200 workers had been allotted duty in Section 9, the remaining 100 were told to report in 5C Young Tea, another section.
Yesterday, after 5pm, a group of 50 women entered the chamber of the manager and demanded that they be allotted duty in the same section so that they could enjoy the festivity and distribute sweets.
When the manager refused, the women said they would not report for duty in different sections. An altercation followed after which the workers departed. After 7pm, however, the manager showcaused Sabitri Chhetry, a worker, for leading the others to his chamber and abusing him. Sabitri was told to reply at the earliest why she had misbehaved with the manager and who had provoked her.
“The workers were so noisy that initially I could not understand what they were saying. Later Sabitri Chhetry started shouting at me. She said if all the women were not allowed to work together, they would skip duty today. I told them it was up to them to take the decision but if they reported for work they would have to follow my instruction,” said Pal Choudhury. “Sabitri was provoking the others. I send her a showcause notice late last evening through the chowkidar.”
Around 7 this morning, when the women workers assembled in the garden factory, Sabitri arrived waving her showcause notice. She said the management had expelled her. At that time, the manager was entering the factory. The assembled women caught him and pushed him to the floor. They dragged him for around 20 metres and tore his T-shirt. They also beat him up on the head, chest and waist. His glasses and cellphone were also smashed.
After nearly 50 minutes, a force from Jaigaon police station arrived and rescued the manager from the mob.
Nandalal Mahali, the garden unit secretary of the National Union of Plantation Workers’ affiliated to the Congress’s Intuc, denied there was any incident of assault. “The women had only surrounded the manager,” he said.
Pal Choudhury has filed a complaint with Jaigaon police station but has not named anyone. The workers put in an hour extra to compensate for the loss of time in the morning. Pal Choudhury was back in the garden from the Jaigaon police station by afternoon.
Sabitri Chhetry said: “We have been working in the same section on festival days for decades because we distribute sweets and enjoy ourselves. Today too we ended up working in the same section but only after some confusion. For no reason, the manager issued me a notice.”
Vasist Pachetia, a director of the garden, said an inquiry would be conducted.