A delegation of the Assembly Standing Committee on Labour that recently visited four tea gardens in north Bengal has criticised the State Government for “not doing enough” to resolve the crisis. The development comes in the wake of several workers' deaths in the tea gardens in North Bengal.
The delegation led by the Chairman of the Standing Committee Gouranga Chatterjee, a Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) MLA visited the tea gardens in the Alipurduar district on Monday. The team visited Dimdima, Birpara, Garganda and Hantapara gardens in the district.
“The living condition in these four tea gardens, all owned by the Duncan Group, is horrible. The State Government’s steps to tackle the situation have been inadequate,” Mr. Chatterjee told The Hindu . He also said that the workers of these tea gardens are suffering from acute drinking water crisis and those from the Hantapara garden have to travel six km daily to collect drinking water. As for the recent deaths in the gardens Mr. Chatterjee said that it "seems that they were due to malnutrition.”
“During our visit locals told us that this year 58 persons have died in these tea gardens due to malnutrition out of which 24 deaths had taken place in the Birpara Tea Garden,” said Mr. Chatterjee. He also said that the Standing Committee report will be tabled in the Assembly in February.
However, none of the committee members of the Trinamool Congress (TMC) was with the delegation. Asked why he was not present during the committee's visit to the tea gardens, TMC MLA Arjun Singh said: "I was not able to go there as during the time of the visit I was outside Bengal." Mr Singh was one of the members of the committee. The other TMC MLAs, Dhiman Roy and Mala Sen were also absent.
The CPI-M MLAs said that the situation in the Hantapara Tea Garden is such that even the local TMC affiliated workers union have criticised the TMC Government. The garden has a total workforce of about 4,800 out of which 1,800 are permanent employees while 3,000 are contractual workers.
“Although the owners have not declared lockout the workers are not getting any wage since March. Since then our condition has been pathetic as we have scant access to the basic amenities. I think the State Government has not done enough resolve the issue,” said Rajen Tamang, convener of the Hantapara unit of TMC affiliated Terai Dooars Plantation Workers’ Union. He also said that in the last six months “at least 15 workers have died in the garden.
Three tea garden workers die since Monday
With yet another death of a worker on Wednesday three persons have died in the tea gardens since Monday. Sukri Soren (35) died earlier in the day. She was a worker of the Birpara Tea Garden. Earlier this week two more deaths have taken place in the gardens. While Shyam Sundar Chakrabarty (62), a retired pharmacist in the Garganda tea garden died on Monday, middle aged Lachmi Mahali died in the Birpara Tea Garden of the area died the next day.