Tea protest against bank delay

Siliguri, Dec. 8: A group of workers of the closed Raipur Tea Estate demonstrated in front of a nationalised bank’s branch in Jalpaiguri today, blaming the financial institution for the delay in reopening the garden.

The bank had seized the keys of the garden and approached the Debt Recovery Tribunal (DRD) to get back the money it had lent to the management, which had left Raipur on May 7, 2005.

“The bankers are delaying the handing over of the keys of the factory and other establishments, even though the owner has cleared the dues,” said Augustan Lakra, a worker of Raipur located on the outskirts of Jalpaiguri town. Even today, Somali Munda, a 62-year-old woman, died because of malnutrition and anaemia of the garden, he said.

Blaming the district administration, state and the central governments for the deadlock, a worker said because of the delay, the garden owner went on saying that the estate could not be reopened as the keys were with the bank.

“More than 200 people have died since May 2005 and several more are languishing in poverty,” said Aloke Chakraborty, the general secretary of the Intuc-affiliated National Union of Plantation Workers, who led the demonstration.

While the bank officials refused comment describing the matter sub-judice, trade union leaders claimed that the bankers had contacted them. “They had sent a letter to us, requesting us not to go for today’s demonstration. They want to dispose of the issue fast,” Chakraborty said. A hearing at the DRD was fixed today but there was hardly any progress. “The next hearing will be held from January 28 to 30,” Chakraborty said.