Man Kills wife at Raipur Tea Estate

Thirty-six-year-old Bisni Munda of Bhagat Line at the closed Raipur tea estate in Jalpaiguri was killed by her husband yesterday afternoon when she failed to cook a meal for him.

Jistai, the soul bread-earner of the family of four, lost his temper when Bisni told him that she could not cook anything since there was nothing at home. Jistai hit her so hard with a stick that Bisni fell to the ground and died on the spot. He later surrendered to the police. With Jistai taken to police custody, their two children have no one to look after them at the moment.

The Mundas are not the only residents in the garden who fell victim to poverty. With the garden remaining closed since 2003 and the entrepreneur reportedly making no effort to reopen it, most of the labourers have left for other estates or towns in search of job. The few people left behind work under the operating management committee (OMC) for a paltry sum of Rs 40 per day.

With the garden closed for so long, trade union leaders had set up the committee, which allow workers pluck and sell leaves from the estate in exchange of a small amount. For Jistai too, the Rs 40 that he earned every day under the OMC was his only income.

“The situation is turning worse every day. We don’t know how long we will be able to help the workers,” said Sania Bhumij, the unit president of the Citu-affiliated Cha Bagan Mazdoor Union.

Referring to yesterday’s incident, Bhumij said: “The fight that led to the murder has become rather common in the labour lines these days. With hardly any food at home, the women find it difficult to arrange for meals, which often leads to such quarrels.”

Low consumption of food has reduced the immunity of residents, with as many as 50 incidents of death due to malaria and gastro-enteritis reported in Raipur so far. Most of the residents carry malaria parasite in them, a health source said.

“Though OMCs and a few government schemes have been implemented in closed gardens here, they can hardly be a permanent solution to the financial crisis of the labourers,” said Kalyan Roy, the secretary of West Bengal Cha Sramik Union. “The lack of initiative on the part of the government and the planters’ apathy are driving the workers to such acts.”

With the owner staying abroad at present and no managerial staff residing in the garden, no representative of the management could be contacted. Even the Indian Tea Planters’ Association declined to take any responsibility for the incident, stating that with the garden failing to pay its membership fees, they have no connection with them.

According to Abdul Ghani, the subdivisional officer of Jalpaiguri, all food-for-work schemes operational in other closed estates have been implemented at Raipur too. “We are also corresponding with the owners, trying to terminate the deadlock and ensure that the garden reopens as soon as possible,” Ghani said.

Source: The Telepgraph