Workers chase out managers

Alipurduar, Jan. 13: A section of workers of Mujnai Tea Garden who has been going without wages for a month today forced the management to leave the estate on foot.

The management will, however, decide on the fate of the garden tomorrow. The estate in Madarihat, which has 999 workers, had reopened on November 1 after remaining closed for 11 months.

At 7.30am, the employees went to the senior adviser of the garden, N.N. Chakroborty, and demanded the wages for December.

“I had told them that I would receive the money from the company on Friday and distribute it the next day. But they were not ready to listen to me and started shouting against the management. They asked me to leave the garden immediately if I am unable to pay the wages,” Chakroborty said. “The workers also compelled me to walk to Rangalibazna, 6km away, and did not even allow me to get a car from there. I was forced to board a bus.”

The 70-year-old adviser was accompanied by assistant manager Koushik Roy. Both of them reached the Indian Tea Planters’ Association at Birpara. “No management staff is in the garden now. We will sit tomorrow and decide on our next course of action,” Chakroborty said.

On December 12, the workers had gheraoed Chakroborty throughout the day for wages. They, however, withdrew the agitation following an assurance from the block development officer (BDO) of Madarihat. The management had paid the wages two days later.

Today, as the news of the garden unrest reached Jitendra Tamang, the joint BDO of Madarihat, he reached the spot along with police. But by then, Chakroborty and Roy were far from the garden.

According to sources in the garden, a section of the workers has been instigated by the greenleaves buyers to throw out the management so that they can resume business in a closed estate. Another reason why these buyers were annoyed was that the mechanical employees had started renovating the factory, which means that it would have started producing tea in April.

Sukha Oraon, the garden unit secretary of the Citu-run Cha Bagan Mazdoor Union, defended the workers’ action. “The employees got agitated when Chakroborty said he could not pay today. Last month, the adviser had done the same. If the management delays the payment every month, how long will the workers tolerate,” he said.

The union leader said according to an agreement signed in Calcutta on October 28, the management was supposed to pay the wages by 7th or 8th of every month. But the promise was not kept in December.