Chamurchi may reopen soon

Siliguri, Oct. 29: Seven years after it was shut down, Chamurchi Tea Estate near Banarhat in the Dooars is showing signs of reopening.

Another closed garden in the region, Mujnai Tea Estate, will reopen on November 1.

“Om Prakash Mal, a known face in the jute industry of the state, had agreed to take over Chamurchi from the old owner last year,” N.K. Basu, the principal adviser to the Indian Tea Planters’ Association (ITPA), said today. “Finally, he has decided to reopen the garden and has arranged a meeting on November 6 in Calcutta.”

Trade union leaders, representatives from the ITPA and other stakeholders of the tea industry will be present at the meeting to be held at the additional state labour commissioner’s office.

“The date of reopening will be fixed after discussing the payment of liabilities like the workers’ dues, the status of factory and the plantations,” Basu said.

But before the meeting, the trade union leaders and the planters will sit in Calcutta on November 4 and 5 to discuss the revision of salaries of the workers in the estates, a union leader said.

During the past seven years, the workers and their families in the garden solely depended on the proceeds of tealeaves which they usually sell to nearby estates and to some bought-leaf factories.

“We could not see any hope as the owner did not respond to our repeated requests and reminders from the government,” Raso Mahali, one of the 846 workers in the garden, said referring to Sushila Kejriwal, the director of Chamurchi Agro (India) Ltd, the previous owner of the garden. “It is nice to hear now that a new owner is interested in reopening the garden. We are eagerly waiting to see the factory start again.”