Indrani Dutta

Failure to provide requisite amenities to employees

Many lying closed since July 2005

Gardens owe State government massive dues

KOLKATA: The West Bengal Government on Thursday issued show cause notices to five tea gardens for failing to reopen them and not providing the requisite amenities to their employees.

Some of the gardens have been lying closed since July 2005.

The notices followed last week’s meetings between Union Minister of State for Commerce Jairam Ramesh with West Bengal Industry Minister Nirupam Sen and Land Reforms Minister Abdul Rezzak Molla.

It was announced at that meeting that within three days, notices for cancelling land-leases would be issued. The names of the defaulters were not announced then.

The gardens have piled up massive dues to the State government and have locked up precious tea-growing land.

Workers not paid

The notices accused the garden managements of not paying the workers and failing to ensure supply of medicines, electricity, and drinking water.

There have been reports that diseases and malnutrition had killed some of the workers.

When contacted, Mr. Ramesh told The Hindu that the Commerce Department was consulting the Union Law Ministry to find out whether simultaneously Section 16(E) of the Tea Act of 1953 could be invoked against these gardens for takeover. They will be later handed over to new promoters.

The gardens issued notices are all in Jalpaiguri district in north Bengal.

They are: Kalchini-Raimatang which has the largest amount of land locked in its estates — 5600.9 acres and also the largest amount outstanding to the State exchequer by way of lease-rents and cess to the tune of Rs. 15.9 lakhs.

The other gardens are Bharnobari, Raipur, Samsing and Shikarpur.

According to a status report on the 13 closed gardens by the Commerce Ministry, many have told the Tea Board that they were trying to reopen them either on their own or through new promoters.