Bonus for closed tea garden workers

Workers of closed gardens, too, will get “bonus” this year, the operations and maintenance committees (OMCs) have promised.

However, they have refused to call it bonus. It will be known as kharcha or bakshish.

“This is because we are distributing a portion of the OMC income among the workers,” said Sova Chhetry, the convener of the OMC at Kalchini Tea Estate, 33km from here.

The OMCs were set up in gardens that faced lockout or were abandoned by the management. The workers run them with help from trade unions. The leaves produced are sold either to other gardens that have factories or to bought leaf factories

In Kalchini block, four gardens — Kalchini, Raimatang, Chinchula and Bharnobari — are lying closed for not less than two years. Kalchini workers will get their kharcha tomorrow.

“Last year, because of a shortage in funds we could not give anything to the workers. This time, the labourers have worked from March 12 to September 28. The number of working days comes to around 113. A worker who has worked for all the days will receive more than Rs 700. There are 1,273 workers in Kalchini Main division while in Kalchini Out Division there are 730 workers, who will receive more than Rs 750,” said Chhetry.

In Raimatang Tea Estate, the number of workers is 1,258 and all of them will get Rs 800 each as bakshish. For Chinchula, the situation is different.

Gopal Goyel a buyer of tealeaves from the Out Division, has taken the charge of 500 workers. All of them will get Rs 1,500 each on the basis of last year’s performance.

Bharnobari Tea Estate, under Hasimara police station, however, will not distribute bakshish. Maximum starvation and malnutrition deaths (the figure is around 90 from December 2005 till date) were reported from this garden.

Madan Sarki, the convener of the garden OMC, said: “We have lots of expenses. We have purchased chemicals for tea bushes and have to pay the electric bill. So we decided against baksheesh. The workers too have agreed.”

Sarki also said that the VIP visits to the garden have done nothing to improve it condition.

“So many of them came, but the status remains the same,” he said.

Source: The Telegraph