‘Bring Manjolai tea estate, workers under TANTEA to ensure livelihood’

The BBTC administration, complying with the court’s direction, asked on July 11, 2024 the workers not to leave their homes in Maanjolai and other areas “until further orders from the court”

Updated - July 11, 2024 04:55 pm IST

Published - July 11, 2024 04:01 pm IST - TIRUNELVELI

Maanjolai tea estate in Tirunelveli district. File

Maanjolai tea estate in Tirunelveli district. File | Photo Credit: A. Shaikmohideen

The Manjolai Area Residents’ Welfare Association has appealed to the Tamil Nadu government to bring the Manjolai tea estates in the Western Ghats under Tamil Nadu Tea Plantation Corporation (TANTEA) and allow the existing tea estate workforce of Manjolai to continue their work in the tea gardens as it would ensure their livelihood.

Speaking to reporters here on Thursday, July 11, 2024, president of the association and retired railway station master V.M. Chelladurai and advocate M.A. Arasu Amalraj, both hailing from Manjolai, said the then Zamin of Singampatti gave on lease 8,373.57 acres of land in the Western Ghats for 99 years to the Bombay Burmah Trading Corporation Private Limited (BBTC) through a registered document on February 12, 1929 and the BBTC had created tea gardens on the leased land. The lease period ends on February 11, 2028.

However, the BBTC directed the tea estate workers, who were living in Maanjolai, Kaakkaachi, Ooththu, Naalumukku and Kuthiraivetti for five generations, to leave the tea estate area immediately while “forcing” them to go on voluntary retirement. After the aggrieved tea estate workers approached the Madurai Bench of Madras High Court in search of legal remedy, the Court ordered the BBTC to maintain status quo until the verdict was delivered in this case. In other words, the court ordered the BBTC not to evict the tea estate workers and their families from their houses in Manjolai, Kaakkaachi, Ooththu, Naalumukku and Kuthiraivetti until their petition with prayers on ensuring livelihood and compensation were disposed off by the court.

“Since the workers have been left jobless for more than a month, their families are in the lurch. There is no medical assistance for these people after this adverse development. Hence, all political parties including the ruling DMK are in favour of ensuring the livelihood of the tea estate workers, who do not have any property in the plains. If they are shunted out of the tea gardens without giving them any compensation or house site, they will have to wander like refugees. They do not have experience in any work other than tea garden work. When the Sri Lankan refugees came to Tamil Nadu in 1967, they were allowed to work in the tea gardens of the TANTEA. Hence, the Tamil Nadu government, which will take over the Manjolai tea estates from the BBTC after the end of the lease period, should allow the workers to work under TANTEA. Moreover, the State government should ensure medical care for the tea estate workers living in Manjolai and other areas and give them due relief,” said Mr. Chelladurai and Mr. Amalraj.

Meanwhile, the BBTC administration, complying with the court’s direction, asked on Thursday the workers not to leave their homes in Manjolai and other areas “until further orders from the court”.

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