TEA NEWS: Garden closure in Terai too – political blame game, the typical state of confusion that Bengal thrives in, while the poor & starving workers always lose out, while the well-fed management doesn’t care to solve problems but create them ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Siliguri, Dec. 10: The Belgachi Tea Estate at Naxalbari today became the first garden in the Terai to be shut down in the recent past with the management attributing lawlessness and non-performance of workers to the closure.
Asok Bhattacharya blamed trade unions affiliated to the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha and the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad for the shutdown, though the Citu pointed finger at the management’s inefficiency for the closure.
“The management faces inconveniences in the day-to-day running of the estate as labourers stay away from duties or work for only one-and-a-half hours, instead of the stipulated eight hours, a day. They also resort to agitation frequently and steal plants, causing losses to the estate,” reads a notice put up by K.K. Jha, the manager of the garden.
The plantation located 30km from here employs around 800 permanent workers and an equal number of casual workers. The garden was taken over by the Belgachi Tea Company Limited in December 2009. Although many tea estates in the Dooars are locked out quite frequently, Belgachi is the first garden in neighbouring Terai to announce suspension of work this year.
The state urban development minister Bhattacharya said: “The garden in the Terai has closed down only because of immature trade unionism by the leaders and members of newly formed trade unions affiliated to the Morcha and the Parishad. Considering the present state of affairs in the tea industry, no other reason can be cited for the shutdown.”
Bhattacharya’s comment comes at a time the Darjeeling Terai Dooars Plantation Labour Union and the Progressive Tea Workers’ Union, affiliated to the Morcha and the Parishad, are rapidly expanding their bases in the brew belts of north Bengal, where the Citu and the Intuc used to hold sway over the labourers.
Both the unions slammed the minister for his comments. “We are a minority in Belgachi where other trade unions have strong bases. Performance of the new management has been miserable,” said Suraj Subba, the general secretary of the plantation labour union.
“As Asok Bhattacharya knows that the CPM will be in a pitiable condition in the ensuing Assembly polls, he is trying to create confusion among workers by making baseless comments against us. He is continuing his propaganda against the Morcha even in tea belt.”
Baijnath Naik, the general secretary of the progressive union, said: “Whatever the minister has said is false. The management’s refusal to infuse fresh funds to clear the workers’ dues had led to the closure.”
The CPM-affiliated Citu alleged that the new management had not paid gratuities and provident funds due to retired workers. “Facilities in the garden have also dried up with irregularities in payment of wages and ration,” said Gautam Ghosh, a district Citu leader from Naxalbari.