Chamurchi Tea Estate workers want co-operative society

Labourers of the closed Chamurchi Tea Estate in the Dooars want the Centre to acquire the garden and hand it over to a workers’ cooperative society.

Chamurchi has been shut for more than six years. Currently, a Citu-controlled operations and management committee (OMC) oversees the plucking and selling of green tealeaves at the estate.

This morning, about 400 Chamurchi workers demonstrated in front of the offices of the tea board and the joint labour commissioner here, demanding steps to facilitate the formation of the cooperative society and the acquisition of the garden. They also submitted memorandums signed by 820 of the 846 permanent labourers of the garden, who have enrolled as members of the society.

“We are not satisfied with the way the OMC at our garden has been working,” said Rasho Mahali, a worker of Chamurchi. “The owner, on the other hand, has stayed away for the past six-seven years. We can run the garden on our own through the cooperative society.”

“We have already applied for the registration of the society,” said Kamruddin Ansari, the secretary of Chamurchi Tea Estate Workers’ Cooperative Society Limited. “The Centre should now acquire the garden by invoking Sections 16 (D) and (E) of the Tea Act, 1953, and hand over the ownership to the society.”

Union minister of state for commerce and industries Jairam Ramesh had declared at a meeting in Calcutta on June 14 that Sushila Kejriwal, the owner of Chamurchi, was unwilling to run the garden. “It has been thus decided that a cooperative society, on the lines of Durgabari tea estate of Tripura, would be formed at the garden,” Ramesh had said.

Tea board officials admitted that the formation of a society could be one way of re-opening the estate, but also spoke of the possibility of a new owner.

“Kejriwal has informed us of an agreement between her and Omprakash Mal (a known face in the jute industry), who wants to buy the garden,” a board official said.

Most workers, however, claimed that the new owner is after the sops declared by the Centre for reopening closed gardens.

Source: The Telegraph