Bonus Row and loss of job

Four hundred workers of the closed Bharnobari Tea Estate have been left in the lurch after an alleged assault bid prompted two financiers to abandon the garden.

A notice declaring suspension of work was put up yesterday in Malangi Out Division, 45km from here. The Main Division of the garden — shut since December 2005 — is run by an Operations and Maintenance Committee.

One of the financiers Tapan Das said unless the Jalpaiguri district administration promised them security, work will not resume. Das along with Raja Bhattacharjee had been buying tea leaves from the Out Division since early this year.

According to an agreement with the financiers, workers were paid daily at the rate of Rs 45, office staff members Rs 100 and drivers Rs 60 for the period covering March 13 to December 31. There was no promise of bonus in the deal signed in the presence of an administrative official.

However, for the past few days the workers had been clamoring for bonus. A bipartite meeting was held on Monday and when Das and Bhattacharjee refused to give in to the demand, members of Cha Bagan Majdoor Union — affiliated to the Citu — and Dooars Cha Bagan Workers’ Union, an RSP-backed body, allegedly tried to beat them up.

“They even threatened to kill us,” said Das.

Charku Lohar, a member of the Jaigaon Block Committee of Majdoor Union, has denied the allegations. “Some of the workers may have shouted out of frustration. That is natural. But nobody tried to beat them up.”

Source: The Telegraph