Darjeeling: The management of the Orange Valley tea garden today ordered suspension of work in the estate on disciplinary grounds.

Rajesh Kaushal, the manager, along with his colleagues, left the garden early this morning, following which the suspension notice was issued to the workers.

Santa Rai, on behalf of the labourers, said though they had seen the notice, they went ahead with their duties. “Of the 567 labourers, 464 worked today. Tomorrow is a holiday. We will continue to come to the estate from Wednesday as usual and the management should pay,” Rai said.

“The management decided to leave because it is not finding the atmosphere conducive for the running of the estate, as a section of workers has been trying to disrupt the proceedings in the garden,” said Sandeep Mukherjee, the secretary of the Darjeeling Tea Association.

Trouble started in the estate, situated around 15 km from here, last Wednesday when the body of Sukbir Rai (57), a dafadar (supervisor) there, was found 300 feet down a jhora. “Some labourers started blaming the management for the death. The post-mortem report is yet to come, but before that, a charge has been brought against two assistant managers,” said Mukherjee. Following a complaint lodged by Amit Rai, a resident of the garden, police have started a case under Sections 306 and 34 of the IPC against assistant managers Nipen Sharma and Jhawar Singh Chowdhury, for “compelling (someone) to commit suicide”, a source said.

Citing the other reasons behind abandoning the garden, the management said K.K. Chowdhury, the factory in-charge, was manhandled on Thursday for “no apparent reason”. “After Sukbir’s body was recovered, Kaushal, who was away, returned to the garden on Saturday, following which, the workers gheraoed him,” said Mukherjee.

The labourers, however, said they did not mean any harm to the manager. “We were surprised that Kaushal has left the garden. We do not have anything against him,” said Solomon Rai, a worker. “All we want is that those responsible for Sukbir’s death should be punished.”

GNLF leader A.R. Dewan, also the former councillor of the area, declined to comment. “I will first have to find out what has happened,” he said.

Source: The Telegraph