The Bengal government is working out a mechanism on tea wages in which garden owners would transfer cash to a district magistrate’s official bank account, which would be forwarded to garden managements as government departments are allowed exemption from withdrawal stipulations in exceptional circumstances.
Over 3.5 lakh workers in over 300 tea gardens across north Bengal’s Darjeeling Dooars and Terai have not been paid their weekly or fortnightly wages because of the Rs 20,000 a week cash limit. Tea gardens need lakhs of rupees a week to clear wages.
The mechanism was first tried out in tea estates in Golaghat, Assam, another state with many tea gardens.
Sandeep Mukherjee, the principal advisor of the Darjeeling Tea Association, had written to the state government on November 10, seeking an “exemption” for the tea industry fearing labour unrest.
The November 11 circular issued by P. Vijaya Kumar, general manager, RBI, states: “Government Departments may be allowed to draw cash beyond the stipulated limit of Rs 10,000/- in exceptional cases, only on production of evidence justifying their cash requirement in writing at the discretion of an officer in the rank of General Manager and above.”
Even though tea gardens are private entities, the state government has decided to ask all tea garden owners to transfer the wages to the district magistrate’s account of each tea producing district in the state. The district magistrate’s office will withdraw the amount and hand it over to the garden managements in cash.
The garden management can transfer the amount either through a cheque or electronic transfer but the amount has to be only for the purpose of wages and salaries.
“We are trying to work out a solution around the (November 11) notification. The finance department is taking up the matter (with RBI),” said a senior state official.
“The Assam government has started the process and we too are following the same procedure,” said a Bengal official.
Only in Darjeeling, the bank will have to pay around Rs 8 crore to meet the wages of 87-odd tea gardens.
“The process has taken off in the right direction. We hope it will fructify soon,” said Mukherjee.
[Via: Telegraph, file pic]
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