A lockout has been declared in a southern Assam tea estate that was partially cleared by the local authorities for a greenfield airport that the Civil Aviation Ministry was unaware of.
A notice issued by Supriya Sikdar, the deputy manager of the Daloo Tea Estate, said all operations of the tea estate have been closed with effect from June 28 as plantation workers were disobeying the ‘kamjari’ or daily deployment order.
Exempted from the lockout order were emergency services including hospital, security, water supply and electricity.
“Due to complete lawlessness and delay in reporting at workplace by workers, plucking round could not be maintained and the management of the Daloo Tea Estate has suffered an irreparable loss in terms of quantity and quality of tea produced,” the notice read.
During the period of lockout, the employees will not be entitled to any wages, ration and other related facilities, the notice said.
Legal claim for any financial loss due to such illegal acts of workers and the consequent lockout may also be filed on the Garden Panchayat without any prejudice, the order warned.
The lockout has left about 1,500 permanent and 1,000 temporary plantation workers jobless.
The tea estate had come under the spotlight on May 12 when the Cachar district administration began a process of acquiring 5,733 acres of the estate for a proposed civilian airport. Scores of security personnel were deployed and Section 144 of the CrPC was clamped to pre-empt any possible backlash from the tea plantation workers.
The local authorities subsequently uprooted some 30 lakh tea bushes to clear space for the airport, triggering protests form the plantation workers and trade union activists in the district.
But on May 31, the Civil Aviation Ministry said Silchar was not among the 21 greenfield airports it had approved for establishment. The Ministry also said it did not receive any proposal for an airport near Silchar from the State government, as mandated by Greenfield Airports Policy of 2008.
The revelation had ticked off the tea plantation workers, considered a vote bank that the BJP weaned away from Congress. The Daloo Tea Estate Save Coordination Committee carried out protests against the “conspiracy to affect the livelihood of hundreds of tea garden workers”.
The committee, comprising leaders of various unions and the affected workers, said the district administration had pursued an “imaginary airport” to acquire land for some real estate project.