Madhyamik plea on deaf ears

March 1: Workers of Bharnobari Tea Estate yesterday turned away electricity department officials wanting to disconnect supply to the garden and pleaded that the power lines, if snapped at all, should be done after the Madhyamik Examinations.

However, Shibesh Deb, the divisional manager of the West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Company Ltd in Alipurduar, could not promise much. “We can give time only till tomorrow,” he said.

In the past two months, the power bills in the garden has accumulated to more than Rs 6 lakh over the past. The garden has electricity connection only in its labour lines, which have 70 Madhyamik candidates this time.

The block development officer of Kalchini, R. Sundas, too, had visited the estate yesterday asking the family members of two teenagers who died within 24 hours of each other last week to meet him so that he could arrange for relief material and cash. Sundas has asked the union leaders to compile a list of those in distress and submit it to him so that relief could be distributed.

This is probably the first time that aid will be given to an open garden. Last week, The Telegraph had on two days reported the plight of the workers in the struggling Bharnobari, located 42km from Alipurduar town on the India-Bhutan border.

The garden hospital has not functioned even after the estate reopened on April 28, 2008 after more than two years. The workers have not received their salaries for January and the union leaders suspect that they will not be paid for February too. The garden has not given any ration for the past 10 fortnights.

Biplab Sarkar, a leader of the Intuc-affiliated National Union of Plantation Workers, said: “The deputy labour commissioner has called a meeting in his office in Jalpaigiuri to discuss the situation. Let us see what happens.”

Jayanta Banerjee, the manager of Bharnobari estate, said: “We may be behind in clearing the rations but over the past few months, we have disbursed them every week.” He said his absence should not be considered as “abandoning” the garden. “I had to leave to perform the last rites of a relative who died in Delhi.”