700 deaths total in closed tea gardens

Siliguri: More than 700 people have died in the 13 closed gardens of the Dooars in the past 14 months.

A copy of a survey revealing the data was handed over today to Anuradha Talwar by the Jalpaiguri administration.

“Conducted by the district health department in 13 closed gardens, the survey says 765 people have died between January 1, 2006 and March 16, 2007,” said Talwar, the state adviser to the food commissioner appointed by the Supreme Court. “Apparently, there is some double counting in the report which needs to be corrected. Nevertheless, the death toll would be somewhere around 700.”

Asked whether most of the deaths were from starvation, Talwar said: “The survey shows that death was due to several diseases. We cannot make any comments unless we analyse the report.”

Bhusan Chakraborty, the chief medical officer of health in Jalpaiguri, while confirming the number of deaths, said something similar. “We have conducted a survey that shows the death of more than 700 people in these gardens. But we are yet to evaluate the report and the causes of death.”

The immediate reasons seem to be gastro-enteritis, cardio-respiratory failure and anaemia, a source said.

Talwar, who is back in the district to conduct a second recce of the closed gardens in north Bengal, visited Raipur Tea Estate, 5 km from the Jalpiguri town, today.

“The workers can no longer live on relief and want the garden to reopen,” she said. “The state, on the other hand, has not found prospective investors, which has aggravated the problem. A proposal to run the garden under a cooperative or an operating management committee has been accepted by the workers.”

A meeting, Talwar said, will be held on May 18 to discuss the issue. She said she would request the trade union leaders to come together to form a committee to run the closed estates.

The adviser to the apex court also said the house-to-house survey initiated by the district administration in the closed tea gardens is on. “Some of the officials informed me that a proposal to conduct a death audit has been conceived,” she said. “Under this, officials would check out the reason behind any death in the estates and other details associated with it.”

Sikarpur and Bhandapur, Chinchula, Mujnai and a few other closed estates are expecting Talwar in the next two days.

Source: The Telegraph