Sardarjis better off with tea machines

His long white beard fluttering in the breeze, his turban streaked with grime, Ajit Singh walks into the machine room of Ducklangia tea estate in Assam.

Everyone has been waiting for the fitter expectantly. He at once gets down to work and, in a jiffy, points out where the problem lies.

As Nirod Singh, the manager of Ducklangia tea estate, says: “Ajit Singh was supposed to have retired eight years ago. But we requested the marvellous mechanic to continue — he is simply indispensable.”

Nirod Singh, who himself has 36 years of experience in the tea industry and has worked in several gardens in Assam and West Bengal, said most of the gardens have Sikh fitters who are so incredibly competent that they can find the solution to all sorts of problems in any kind of machinery in an instant.

“These Sikh mechanics may not have had a formal education, but they are technically better than the best,” Nirod Singh said.

Not just Ajit Singh of Ducklangia. Surjeet Singh, the head fitter of Kakojan tea estate, crossed his age of superannuation some 10 years ago. Then there is Shingara Singh of Umatara tea estate, Salvinder Singh of Gotonga garden, Manjit Singh of Hunwal estate — the list is endless.

Though many of the Sardarjis in Assam’s tea estates crossed their retirement age long back, they have been asked to continue. There is nobody good enough to replace them.

“Give him any problem with the machinery in the factory, and he comes out with a solution immediately,” said Pran Pratim Bhattacharrya, senior assistant manager of Kakojan tea estate, which has one of the biggest tea manufacturing factories in Asia.

The forefathers of these Sardarjis had landed up in Assam in search of jobs over a century ago. An official at the Upper Assam labour commissioner’s office said the Sardarjis have been working in tea garden factories for several generations.

Source: The Telegraph