Calcutta High Court on Friday stayed acquisition process by the Centre of six ailing tea gardens in North Bengal owned by Duncans Industries Ltd to alleviate sufferings of its workers and directed the company to deposit Rs 4 crore in a nationalised bank by February 22.
He instructed the company to deposit Rs 4 crore by February 22 in a nationalised bank.
A separate account will have to be opened for the purpose. Of the amount Rs 2.19 crore will have to be kept in order to clear the wages and dues of the tea garden workers.
The Duncan group of Industries will have to file an affidavit stating that it would open the tea gardens by February 25.
The tea gardens are: Birpara, Garganda, Lankapara, Tulsipara, Hunterpara, Dunchipara and Dimdima.
The Union Ministry for Commerce and Industries had issued a notification on January 28 to the Tea Board to take over the management of these tea gardens.
The Tea Board in a letter to the Chief Secretary Basudeb Bandopadhyay on February 6 expressed its inability to take over the management of these tea gardens as they had been already referred to BIFR.
The Duncan group of Industries had expressed shock at the Centre’s notification as talks were on with the workers and moved the High Court against it.
Earlier, a team from Centre had visited the tea gardens and found that they were not being run properly.
They also saw the deplorable condition of the workers. A separate team was sent by the state government and that too gave a similar report.
The state government had announced Rs 100 crore package for the workers of the closed tea gardens.
Medical teams were sent to the workers and those who were ill received treatment. The District Administration in North Bengal was asked to give them food grains at Rs 2 per kg.
The state union of BJP had sought the intervention of Nirmala Sitaram to open the closed tea gardens.
Accordingly, she sent a team who submitted report to her. On Friday during the argument, counsel Anindya Mitra appearing on behalf of Duncan said that the state government should also deposit some money to clear dues of the workers which Justice Banerjee declined.
Meanwhile, the deaths of closed tea garden workers continue unabated.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had urged the Centre to prepare a package for them. But the Centre has not announced any such package so far.
The tea garden owners said that now the most important matter is whether the Duncan group of Industries take initiative to open their gardens.