Manager at cop door as workers pluck on their own

Alipurduar, Dec. 25: The management of Kohinoor Tea Estate has lodged a police complaint after workers of the closed garden started plucking greenleaves on their own and sold them to another garden.

On Friday, the management closed the garden in Samuktala without any notice. It also did not distribute the fortnightly payment due to the workers two days later.

The workers, deprived of their wages, started plucking on Tuesday which continued till yesterday.

“We plucked about 20,000kg of green leaves in two days and sold them to the Rahimabad tea estate at the rate of Rs 12.50 per kilogram. We earned around Rs 2.5 lakh and paid Rs 270 to each of the 888 workers,” said Anil Chik Baraik, the garden unit secretary of the Citu-run Cha Bagan Mazdoor Union.

“The management compelled us to pluck the green leaves. They did not make the payment due on December 22, although the labourers had worked during the fortnight. We have planted bushes and the tealeaves are our property. How can we allow them to get damaged,” Baraik said.

The money made the workers happy. The Christians — the garden has around 350 of them — organised a cultural programme spending Rs 20,000 to celebrate Christmas.

According to Baraik, the workers had run the garden on their own for a year in 2003 when the management had abandoned the estate. “We did not have any problem then. We will again continue the plucking from Saturday.”

Keshab Sinha, the manager of the garden, however, described the workers’ action as “illegal”. “A section of workers along with some agents are involved in this illegal process. I have named them in a complaint with Samuktala police on Tuesday,” he said over the phone. “I issued a notice for suspension of work to the subdivisional officer of Alipurduar and the police and requested the district magistrate to take care of the garden property during the closure.”

On the tripartite meeting at the SDO’s office that was called off yesterday, Sinha claimed he did not receive any information on it. “We are always ready for talks if the administration invites us,” the manager added.