More Tea garden deaths

Five persons have died of malnutrition and related diseases in the past 10 days in the Mujnai tea estate, 50 km from here.

Malati Munda, 58, who died this morning, was suffering from anaemia.

“For the past one week, she was running a high temperature. I told her to go to the Madarihat block hospital. She came to me this morning, too, but was very weak. She died after she returned home,” said Ashish Biswas, the health assistant of the garden hospital. Biswas is in charge of the hospital, which has been without a doctor since 2004. Mujnai is located in the Madarihat block of Jalpaiguri.

Mujnai was declared a locked out estate on Tuesday. While the management blamed interference from outsiders for its decision, workers alleged that they are yet to get around two months of wages and four-and-a-half months’ ration. Retired workers like Malati had not got their provident funds and other dues.

A tripartite meeting was supposed to be held at the office of the deputy labour commissioner of Jalpaiguri today, but it has been deferred to Monday.

Malati, however, is not the only one, her neighbours alleged, to have died of malnutrition. Budhni Malahi, Jhalo Naik, Etwari Oraon and Ghashi Bandhan went without a square meal, sometimes for as long as 20 days, before they died. Biswas, however, denied that the deaths were from starvation “I knew them all and had attended to them at some time or the other. The deaths were from malnutrition and absence of proper medical facilities,” said Biswas.

The secretary of the Birpara branch of the Intuc, Nakul Sonat, alleged that despite the management’s promise that the essential services in the garden would be in place during lockout, the water supply has been cut off.

Chief adviser to the tea garden N.N. Chakraborty admitted that essential services had been promised to workers.

“I am not sure why they are not getting them. I will definitely look into the matter,” Chakraborty said. Earlier, the garden had remained shut from January 1, 2002 to October 10, 2004.

Both the block development officer of Madarihat, T. Lama, as well as the Jalpaiguri chief medical officer of health, Bhusan Chakraborty admitted that they were unaware of the garden’s closure.

Source: The Telegraph