Asim's sops mismatch tea solution

A slew of sops announced by Asim Dasgupta in Jalpaiguri yesterday has produced mixed reactions.

While workers have refused “to be taken in” by the finance minister’s aid schemes, planters have protested against the “coercive action” suggested by Dasgupta against them.

“We are not ready to be taken in by his promises till they are implemented,” said Biplab Sarkar, an employee of the closed Bharnobari tea estate today. “We want to see if the minister keeps his word.”

The minister has sanctioned Rs 16 crore for closed estates for the next three months and if at the end of the period there is no breakthrough, another allotment would be made.

Dasgupta had also said the state would soon, in association with the provident funds department, initiate action against planters who have fled from estates leaving crores as PF dues.

These two major announcements apart, Dasgupta has also promised a host of aid schemes for the workers.

But all these could not convince Sania Bhumij of Raipur, another closed estate. “The declarations mean nothing to us till some concrete benefits trickle in,” Bhumij said. “There were others who had visited the gardens earlier, but nothing came out of them.”

Residents at Redbank, where Dasgupta went yesterday, however, spoke differently. “Officials of the relief department have started working for the distribution of foodgrain,” said Debabrata Pal, the head clerk of the estate. “Even the process of assessing the repair cost of houses has started.”

Notwithstanding the Rs 16 crore fund, the suggestion of punitive action has not gone down well with the planters. “We feel any coercive action will only lead to adverse reaction,” said N.K. Basu, the principal adviser to the Indian Tea Planters’ Association. “The government should think about the situations that prompted some planters to abandon their property.”

Chitta Dey, the convener of the Coordination Committee of Tea Plantation Workers, has welcomed Dasgupta’s efforts, but added: “We want the chief minister and his colleagues to monitor the progress of the plans spelt out by the finance minister.”

Source: The Telegraph