Talwar tips for Mujnai Tea Estate

Alipurduar, Jan. 28: Workers of the abandoned Mujnai Tea Estate will focus on off-season maintenance of bushes from tomorrow to get fresh leaves in the coming season. The work includes pruning and weeding and digging new drains.

The decision was taken at a meeting called by Bagan Bachao Committee, a body formed by the workers of Mujnai, after a discussion with Anuradha Talwar, the president of the Pashchim Banga Khet Majur Committee.

The management of Mujnai had abandoned the garden on November 22, leaving 962 workers in the lurch. Despite several meetings the impasse could not be solved. The workers have not received their wages for the last three months and ration for 22 fortnights.

The absence of the management also affected maintenance of the bushes.

“If the maintenance work does not start now, the workers will not get fresh leaves in the next season, which begins around mid-March. On the other hand, if the bushes yield good leaves, the workers can earn money by selling them,” Talwar told The Telegraph over telephone from Mujnai, 65km from here.

Talwar said she had advised the workers to place four demands to the administration.

Every meeting between the administration and the owner must be organised in the garden, so that the workers get to know the decision and are not “misguided” by trade union leaders.

When the management does come back to run the garden, it must openly declare the steps it will take for the development of the garden.

If the workers invest their money earned from selling leaves in the garden, as it happens in Shikarpur, the management has to pay the amount back to them.

Finally, the workers should submit a memorandum to the assistant labour commissioner, demanding that the garden be declared closed until the management returns so that they could get government relief.

Ashish Biswas, the convener of the Bagan Bachao Committee, said the workers would start maintenance from tomorrow. They would place the demands to the administration by the end of this week.

“We cannot prune tea bushes under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme which safeguards 100 days of work. If that was made possible, we would have benefited a lot,” Biswas said.