The DM said another estate of the group would be reopened next month and by March next year, the management will reopen it’s other five gardens in the district.
“There was a tripartite meeting in my office here this afternoon. At the meeting, it was decided that from November 23, Birpara Tea Estate would reopen. The trade union representatives, Duncans officials, the sabhadhipati of Alipurduar zilla parishad and the Alipurduar police chief were present at the meeting,” district magistrate Debiprasad Karanam said.
Birpara tea garden, 63km from Alipurduar town, has 2,200 permanent workers and more than 2,000 temporary labourers.
The management had left the estate in April last year without issuing any notice or informing the district administration.
Sources said workers’ dues of around Rs 70-75 lakh had been pending in the garden since April 2015.
Karanam said: “On the day of reopening the garden, the management will pay Rs 1,000 to each worker and the wages would be paid on time. In the first week of June next year, a bipartite meeting would be held to discuss the payment of (other) dues to the workers. We will continue providing support, like work under NREGA, drinking water and health facilities, to the workers. The Alipurduar SP will hold a programme in the garden to restrict illegal felling of shade trees.”
Asked about yesterday’s development J.K. Sha, the vice president of the Duncans Group, said he was busy in a meeting and would talk to the press later. However, he did not take calls after that.
The Duncans Group has seven tea gardens in Alipurduar district.
In April last year, the management had left all the estates without issuing any notice.
“The Duncans representatives have assured us that in the first week of December, they will reopen either Huntapara or Dhumchipara garden and by March 31, 2017, they will reopen the remaining gardens in Alipurduar district,” the DM said.
In January this year, Nirmala Sitharaman, the minister of state for commerce and Industries, had visited Birpara and other closed tea gardens in the region.
She had submitted a report to the Centre and later that month, the Centre had asked the Tea Board to acquire the seven ailing estates belonging to the Duncans Group.
Tea Board’s search for buyers for the seven gardens did not yield results.
On February 3, the Duncans Group had moved the Calcutta high court challenging the takeover of it’s seven gardens in the district by the central government.
On September 20, the High Court had issued an interim order and declared that the Duncans Group could run the gardens but they should submit a report to the Tea Board every 15 days.
Gopal Prodhan, the president of the Dooars Cha Bagan Workers’ Union affiliated to the UTUC, said: “It is good news for the workers. The temporary welfare schemes are not the solution. The permanent solution is to reopen the gardens.”
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