Three Bandapani tea garden wokers bed-ridden: NGOs, trade unions

On their first day of visit to the closed tea gardens in north Bengal, several non-government organisations (NGOs) and trade unions under the banner of ‘Right to Food and Work Campaign West Bengal’ found at least three workers on ‘deathbed’, who require immediate medical help, at Bandapani Tea Garden in Alipurduar district.

The 12-member team decided to take up the fact-finding visit after deaths were reported in at least two closed tea gardens of north Bengal.

“Bandapani Tea Garden remains closed since July 2013. We found that at least three persons would die in days if no help was given to them,” Debjit Dutta, a member of the team, told The Hindu over phone from the district on Wednesday.

Mr. Dutta said one of the three persons is 23-year-old Mukesh Goala, who is suffering from diabetes, has only a widowed mother to look after him and the family has no earning member.

Nanki Soren (60), who survives on the food occasionally given by her neighbours, has no ration card or any other entitlements from the State government, he said, adding Amit Jhora, another youth in his twenties, is suffering from malnutrition and is barely able to walk.

A section of the workers of the tea garden boycotted the Lok Sabha polls 2014, demanding reopening of the garden.

“The garden is not reopening because it is mired in illegalities. But the State government has not taken any action. The lease given by the State government lapsed in 2006, and the ownership of the tea garden is now in dispute,” Anuradha Talwar, another representative of the team, said.

She emphasised that proactive steps need to be taken for opening these gardens without which the situation has little chances of improving. Ms. Talwar said the team found stunted children, anaemic adults, and many families reported eating once a day.

The team members also pointed out that there was migration and trafficking of women.

“We came across gross violations of the Supreme Court orders on facilities to be given in closed tea gardens. While AAY rations are available, FAWLOI (family allowance for workers in locked-out industry) forms are just being distributed. MNREGS work is largely unavailable,” Fr. Irudaya Jothi S.J, another member, said.

The visit of the representatives of ‘Right to Food and Work Campaign West Bengal’ comes after Jeet Bahan Munda, a 45- year-old worker of Raipur Tea Estate died on June 31 while 40 -year-old Shekhar Nagarchi died at Red Bank Tea Garden on July 2.

The deaths have triggered a fresh debate over the plight of workers of closed tea gardens. Though the State government has denied that they were starvation deaths it has set up a committee of three ministers to look into the matter.

According to the West Bengal government, about 23 gardens in Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri, and Alipurduar districts are either closed or have turned sick.

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Printable version | Dec 9, 2021 6:27:19 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/kolkata/three-bandapani-tea-garden-wokers-bedridden-ngos-trade-unions/article6196081.ece

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