Kumlai tea estate of Jalpaiguri district closed today, making it 24th such plantation in the Terai-Dooars area to stop production.
There was no closure notice, but the work had stopped in the tea estate for several months and the manager, fearing workers' anger over non-payment of salaries, had fled on October 15, trade unions CITU, INTUC, BMS said. The Kumlai tea estate workers had been selling tea leaves from the garden to other tea estates till work stopped completely on Tuesday, they said.
The estate management could not be contacted. The trade unions claimed that a total 1,100 workers will be affected by the closure.
The workers, the unions claimed, were not being paid their salaries for the past six months, neither provided with rations. There is no electricity in the garden. Jalpaiguri district CITU secretary Zia-ur-Alam said till now 24 tea gardens have been closed, including 16 belonging to Duncan.
Blaming the indifference by the state government for the situation, he said that both the state and the Centre should endeavour to reopen the tea gardens as this is the season for plucking and the leaves are sold in the world market. The government must take steps against the tea garden owners, he added.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, in a stern message to the owners of closed tea gardens in Dooars area, earlier this month had said that the state government would take over if they cannot run the gardens.
“If you have tea garden and if you can’t run them, tell us. The state government will take over or we will give it to someone else...If you can’t run the gardens, don’t betray the workers,” she had said.
Banerjee said that payment of provident fund is compulsory and non-payment of it is a criminal offence.