Chamurchi tea garden to reopen today

Chamurchi Tea Estate in Jalpaiguri district will reopen tomorrow after a gap of seven years.

The decision was taken at a meeting held on September 8 at the chamber of the district magistrate of Jalpaiguri.

“We have jute mills and this is the first time that we are entering into the tea industry. For the first five years we will invest in nourishing the tea bushes to improve the quality of the produce. The lean season will start from December but from April next year we expect to start manufacturing,” said R.P. Tiwari, the executive director of Chamurchi Agro India Private Limited, which will take charge of the garden.

The management headed by R.S. Kajriwal, who owned the garden, had left the estate, 90km from here, in August 2002 but the garden was officially declared closed in 2004.

During the period of closure, the operation and management committee of the garden was in charge of selling the green leaves and paid Rs 50 per day to each of the workers.

The workers had not been getting wages and ration on time since 2000.

Tiwari said: “After several meetings with the trade unions, we decided that the dues of the workers that are pending till March 2001 will be cleared. But we will not be able to clear the dues that have accumulated after that.”

There were 1,074 workers in the estate in Banarhat when it was declared closed.

“About 200 of them have either died or retired. Their dependents will be given jobs after six months,” Tiwari added.

Md Nazmu, a CPM panchayat member and a member of the Cha Bagan Mazdoor Union of the Chamurchi garden unit, said: “The workers are happy. But they are not too excited as they have seen crisis brew in Bharnobari and Dheklapara gardens after they reopened. Once the estate reopens we will negotiate the dues of the workers with the management.”

Of the 13 gardens in Jalpaiguri district, nine are closed.

While Raipur, Samsi and Chinchula have started functioning, talks are on to reopen Ramjhora and Kanthalguri tea estates.